“When you finish exercising, your heart rate should return to normal,” says physiotherapist Patrick Walsh, in a report published in the American “Vital Hacker” site. Sitting in the sauna for more than five minutes would maintain the heart rate. It is basically a form of passive exercise, and this delays the recovery process.
He added that spending a few minutes in the sauna before a workout is a better idea and it may actually help you feel relaxed and relieve some immediate muscle pain.
Walsh indicated that warming up is a process of heating the muscles, and a sauna before or after exercise can help start this process (although it does not completely replace this exercise). Experts also emphasized that the sauna can be great for relaxation and even if it is not useful, it is likely not to cause any real harm, and a new study also stated that a sauna session provides many health benefits just like exercise.
The study, conducted by sports scientists at the University of Halle-Wittenberg in Germany in collaboration with the Berlin Medical Center, found that the blood pressure levels and heart rates of sauna users are similar to amateur athletes during a short or medium period of exercise.
In line with previous studies focusing on the long-term effects of sauna use, the scientists concluded that the health benefits of the cardiovascular system, for example, are similar to those resulting from sports activities.
But scientists have indicated that sauna sessions will not help in losing weight because there is no muscle activity. Although one’s weight will decrease after a sauna session, this is a result of fluids lost through sweat, which will require fluid replacement afterwards.
Contrary to previous assumptions, blood pressure does not decrease during a sauna session but does rise. The study also found that after the sauna session, blood pressure and heart rates drop to less than the participants’ baseline value before the session.
“Anyone who is able to withstand moderate sauna before or after exercise physical stress without problems can use a sauna,” said Dr. Sasha Ketlehout, lead author of the study and also a sports scientist at the University of Halle-Wittenberg.
He adds, “However, people with low blood pressure should pay attention after the session,” because a significant drop in pressure can lead to fainting.
For the study published in the International Journal of Complementary Therapies in Medicine, the scientists offered 19 volunteers to a 25-minute sauna session, followed on a different day by a short exercise session on a stationary bike.
Participants’ blood pressure and heart rate were measured before, during and after the sessions.