When it comes to your fitness routine, what you do outside of the gym (or home gym) can make or break the results you see from your workouts. Whether you incorporate a post-workout protein smoothie, foam rolling, or active recovery, you can be confident you’re giving your body what it needs to recover and grow stronger so you can bring your A-game to your workouts. Another option? Incorporating a sauna after your workout.
Nothing is better than hitting the sauna after a long workout (or day). Get the details of your sauna practice right and you’ll not only emerge feeling incredibly relaxed, but you’ll get a ton of benefits, too—including better muscle recovery (1).
What are the benefits you can expect from using the sauna? And when, how long, and hot should your sauna session be to get the most benefits? Here’s the scoop.
Benefits of Hitting the Sauna After a Workout
Sauna benefits tend to occur in a dose-dependent manner. Which means the more frequently you hit the sauna (four to seven days per week versus one day) the more robust your results.
Here, the benefits you can expect from a regular sauna routine (1):
- Reduce your risk of death
- Reduce inflammation (which is linked to a variety of chronic diseases)
- Enhance cardiovascular health
- Enhance brain health
- Enhance muscle recovery
- Reduce sarcopenia (or muscle breakdown)—which occurs naturally with age
You don’t have to do your sauna session in proximity to a workout to receive all of the benefits listed above. However, because the sauna requires a high amount of energy from your body, if done in proximity to a workout it’s better to use the sauna after your workout than before. That way you’ll get the most benefits out of both practices.
It’s also important to point out that to get these benefits, the specific protocol (i.e., how long, how often, and how hot) does matter. We’ve outlined everything below.
Ideal Sauna Temperature, Humidity, and Duration for Benefits
To maximize the health benefits of the sauna, here are the specific temperature, duration, humidity, and frequency ranges that scientists have observed the greatest results (1, 2, 3):
- Temperature: 176 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit
- Duration: 20 to 30 minutes
- Humidity: 10 to 20 percent
- Frequency: 4 to 7 sessions per week
This protocol is not medical advice, it’s simply what’s worked for participants of recent studies. It’s important to consult your doctor before using a sauna—especially if you have a heart condition, are taking blood thinners, or have high blood pressure—to come up with a protocol that’s safe and effective for you.
Even if you don’t have a medical condition, it’s important to monitor how you’re feeling in the sauna. We all have different tolerances to extreme temperatures and discomfort, and newbies should expect an adjustment period as their body adapts to spending time at high temperatures.
Start on the modest end, and work up to longer periods and hotter temperatures as tolerated. Get out of the sauna if you feel light headed, dizzy, nauseous, or unwell. If you experience any symptoms long term, talk to your doctor.
Why Save the Sauna for After Your Workout?
Most of the benefits of sauna use start cropping up around the 20 to 30 minute mark (1). Which is why saving it for after you workout is a better move. Why? Spending too much time in the sauna before a workout could take away from performance.
The energy demands the sauna puts on your body is similar to a workout, as your body works to regulate itself in the extreme heat—your heart rate goes up, increasing metabolism and blood pressure. Plus, you lose a lot of fluids.
Saving your sauna for after your workout means you’ll get the most out of your workout because you can put all of your energy into your workout (when performance is a priority). Then afterwards you can spend enough time in the sauna to get the most benefits.
If you hit the sauna before a workout, we’d recommend capping it at five to ten minutes so you don’t use too much precious energy that could be allocated to your workout. Even with just five to ten minutes in the sauna, you can expect an increase in blood flow and core body temperature—which are important elements of a warm up.
However, it’s also important to activate and move your muscles through a full range of motion before exercise. So, don’t use the sauna as an excuse to skip your warm up. You’ll also want to make sure you’re monitoring your fluid intake and are hydrating properly before and during your workout with plenty of water and electrolytes.
You have questions about using the sauna, we have answers.
Can a Sauna Help You Burn Fat?
Yep. Interestingly, the physical adaptations of sitting in a sauna are similar to working out. Because using the sauna increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolism (as your body needs more energy to regulate and cool itself down under hot temperatures), you’ll naturally burn more calories—and thus, fat—while sitting in a sauna.
Aside from burning calories, you can also expect that by elevating your heart rate and blood pressure while in the sauna, after the sauna (especially after continued use) your resting heart rate and blood pressure will also decrease (1).
How Long Can You Sit in a Sauna?
The most robust benefits currently observed in the sauna cap out around 20 to 30 minutes. You’re welcome to stay in the sauna longer if you feel comfortable, and are continuing to be mindful of your hydration levels; however, no studies have confirmed any benefits of sitting in a sauna beyond 30 minutes. So, if you’re looking for workout recovery or health benefits your time beyond that point may be better spent elsewhere like doing yoga, sleeping, eating a healthy meal, or taking an ice bath.
Can You Use a Sauna Everyday?
Yes. In fact, more frequent sauna bathing (4 to 7 days) is associated with a higher degree of benefits than using the sauna less (1 to 3 days). The benefits of sauna use occur in a dose dependent manner, meaning you can get benefits from just one session in the sauna; but the effect expands as you use the sauna more often.
1. Patrick, R. et al (2021). Sauna Use as a Lifestyle Practice to Extend Healthspan. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0531556521002916. Accessed 5 April, 2023
2. Laukkanen, T. et al (2015). Association Between Sauna Bathing and Fatal Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality Events. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2130724. Accessed 5 April, 2023
3. Laukkanen, T. et al (2017). Sauna Bathing Is Inversely Associated With Dementia and Alzheier’s Disease in middle-Aged Finnish Men. https://academic.oup.com/ageing/article/46/2/245/2654230. Accessed 5 April, 2023