Posted on Jun 16, 2019, 3 p.m.
Don’t have time or not feeling up to that run or class today? This study suggests that sauna sessions can be as physically exhausting as a workout and carries benefits for the heart and blood pressure. However, don’t develop high hopes of this helping with weight loss or actually replacing regular exercise.
As published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Dr. Sascha Ketelhut of Martin Luther University found that an individual who has spent 25 minutes in the sauna experienced on average the same rise in heart rate and blood pressure that they would have seen using a rowing machine; and once the sauna session was completed in a similar manner to exercise the heart rate and blood pressure lowered again.
According to the researchers, “Contrary to popular belief, acute sauna use does not lead to a reduction, but to an increase in blood pressure and heart rate with a consequent increase in myocardial oxygen consumption.”
19 participants were monitored as they relaxed in the sauna for 25 minutes, and then as they spent 30 minutes cooling down; the physical stress of the sauna’s heat and humidity was found to correspond with a steady and progressive increase in blood pressure and heart rate which appeared to be similar to that which would occur with exercise.
“A sauna session is a physical strain. Its long-term positive effects are similar to sports activities.” says Ketelhut.
This study builds on findings from other studies finding sauna sessions to reduce the risk of heart disease and to substantially lower risk of stroke. Even those with low pressure may be able to safely use a sauna, after consulting with their physician.
“Saunas can actually be used by anyone who can tolerate moderate physical stress without discomfort. However, people with low blood pressure should be cautious afterwards, as their blood pressure may then fall below the levels registered before the sauna visit.” says Ketelhut.
Some of the effects of physical exercise may be mimicked by enjoying sitting in a sauna session, however, they are not a suitable substitution for the real deal, especially for those looking to shed some weight. Muscle activity is needed for toning and losing weight, note the researchers.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.