Posted on Jan 11, 2020, 2 p.m.
According to research published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine from the Martin Luther University of Hale-Wittenberg and the Medical Center Berlin spending some time in the sauna may be just as exhausting as moderate physical activity, finding a sauna session to increase heart rate and blood pressure which fall after you leave resulting in long term positive effects that are similar to what is experienced during moderate exercise.
The study makes note that while sauna sessions may have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system it will not induce weight loss as there is no muscle activity involved. According to Dr. Sascha Ketelhum contemporary medicine one thought saunas lead to a continuous drop in blood pressure thought to be caused by the heat dilating the blood vessels leading to lower levels, and recommendations for those with heart conditions or low blood pressure to avoid sauna use. This study investigated these assumptions.
“Many previous assumptions have been made about the acute effects of sauna use, but so far, little research has been done,” said Dr. Sascha Ketelhum of MLU.
This study involved 19 healthy volunteers and 2 experiments conducted on different days: in the first participants enjoyed 25 minute sauna session in which their heart rates and blood pressure were measured, this revealed their blood pressure and heart rates increasing significantly to remain elevated while in the sauna and decrease to levels lower than their original rates after leaving the sauna.
In the second participants completed short workouts on a rowing machine in which their blood pressure and heart rates were measured, according to Ketelhut “the participants’ blood pressure and heart rates reached the same levels during the sauna session as they did with a load of about 100 watts during the exercise test.” Watts are a measurement of power output, which was determined by the resistance levels and rowing strokes of the participants, results indicate that sauna sessions aren’t as relaxing as people may think.
The researchers believe that regular sauna sessions can lead to improved heart health, and the heat exposure experienced is a physical strain that the long term effects of may be comparable to the effects that would be seen from moderate physical exercise or being active in sports with the exception of weight loss. While there may be some weight loss during a sauna session this is attributed to fluids lost when sweating in the sauna which will be regained when rehydrating, which is recommended to be done immediately after the session.
Ketelhut recommends that those with low blood pressure use caution as their blood pressure levels may fall to levels below normal after leaving the sauna, for these people it may be able to enjoy an occasional sauna but it should be done under supervision and not be made a regular event.
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