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Should You Use a Sauna Before or After Your Workout? Or At All? 

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a man is preparing for sauna, smiling, holding a towel and a dry brush_sauna before or after workout
Chetendeep Micky Lal post Reviewer Chetendeep Micky Lal post Reviewer
MA in Kinesiology, CSCS, Registered Yoga Teacher

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There are plenty of perceived benefits of saunas and whether you should sauna before or after workouts, but it’s hard to discern the truth from the myths. 

A sauna involves sitting in a heated room between 45° C to 100° C for anywhere between 5 to 30 minutes. But what are the benefits? We will cover them below, as well as how to incorporate them into your workouts if you choose to hit the heat — whether that’s before or after strength training, cardio, and more. 

Sauna Before a Workout — Are There Any Benefits?

Research suggests that sweating it out in a sauna could include health benefits like detoxification, increased metabolism, weight loss, improved circulation, pain and stress relief, and relaxation. [1] But that research is currently mixed.

 So, what are the benefits of a sauna before workouts, and is it safe? 

Although you might have seen blissed-out gym-goers enjoying a post-workout sauna, there could be some evidence to show that before is best. [2]

Spending time in a sauna before workouts can help elevate your heart rate, warm muscles, and alleviate muscle stiffness before hitting the gym. 

A sauna can help kickstart your warm-up, but it shouldn’t replace a regular exercise warm-up routine — more on that later. 

Here are some benefits and drawbacks of a sauna before workouts: 

a list of benefits and risks of visiting sauna before a workout, sauna before or after workout
Benefits Risks
Improves flexibility Dehydration
Increases heart rate Dizziness and faintness
Warms the body and muscles Low blood pressure 
Improves cardiovascular function

However, you should continually evaluate your specific health needs, and if you suffer from low blood pressure or dizziness, a pre-workout sauna might not be for you. 

The current guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine suggest spending no more than 5 to 10 minutes there as a beginner and no more than 15 to 20 minutes at any given time, which should help you avoid the potential risks. [3] Make sure to sip plenty of water during your sauna sessions, too. 

Can You Skip a Warm-Up If You Used the Sauna Before a Workout?

Unfortunately, no. While some research suggests that a sauna before workouts can improve blood flow and relax muscles, it should never replace a standard exercise-based warm-up. 

Why? Because a well-delivered warm-up will include a series of exercises that move your limbs through their full range of motion (think shoulder rolls and hip circles), increase your heart rate gently (jogging or walking), and prepare your body for exercise. 

Warm-ups should be specific to the exercise you’re about to undertake. For example, if you plan to tackle a chest and shoulder workout, you’ll need to prioritize stretching your pecs, triceps, and shoulder muscles. 

You could perform dynamic stretches in the sauna, but they should be gentle to avoid faintness and aim to stretch your muscles gradually. Studies show that heat therapy can relax and lengthen muscles, so make sure not to overstretch during your sauna time, which could cause injury during your workout. [4] 

Find out how to warm up before lifting weights if you’re short on ideas. 

Sauna After a Workout

Post-sweat, a sauna after running or a strength workout can be deeply relaxing, but make sure you wait at least 10 minutes before you clamber in and don’t exceed 20 minutes.

Your heart rate is likely to be elevated after exercise, which a sauna can exacerbate; this could be uncomfortable and cause dizziness. Moreover, you’re more likely to be dehydrated post-workout, so take water and a few minutes to stretch first. 

The research on post-workout saunas is currently limited. Still, some evidence — like a study by SpringerPlus — suggests that infrared saunas with mild temperatures and light humidity (35-50 degrees) could improve the recovery of your neuromuscular system from high-intensity exercise and strength training — and it’s deeply relaxing (bonus). [5]

A sauna after a workout could relax your muscles by delivering heat to the area while also improving oxygen, nutrient delivery, and blood flow. Saunas can also help reduce those dreaded next-day DOMS (delayed muscle onset soreness) that has you hobbling out of bed. 

a list of benefits and risks of visiting sauna after a workout, sauna before or after workout
Benefits Risks
Improves muscular recovery Dehydration
Improves blood flow to muscles Elevated heart rate
Relaxation Low blood pressure and glucose levels

Should You Use Sauna Before or After a Workout to Lose Weight?

Wouldn’t it be great if all it took was a quick sauna before or after working out to lose weight? Sadly, factors like diet, exercise, sleep quality, and stress management play far bigger roles in your weight-loss journey. Using a high-quality workout app could also help kickstart your fitness goals. 

According to Harvard Health, you are likely to “pour out a pint of sweat” during a sauna session, and research showed that body mass loss (known as BML) decreased in people undertaking two 10-minute sessions with a five-minute break. [6] [7] But this can be linked to fluid loss rather than actual weight loss, and you could end up experiencing post-sauna dehydration instead. 

One benefit we know exists is improved cardio health, regardless of whether you sauna before or after exercise.

A study found similar changes to your heart when sitting in a sauna compared to a moderate-intensity workout and also showed lower blood pressure and heart health, which could lower the risk of heart-related diseases. [8]

Sauna Basics For Fitness Junkies

Thinking of adding a daily sauna to your fitness routine? Whether it’s before or after a workout, here are some tips to get you started safely: 

  • Limit exposure to 5-10 minutes for beginners and 15-20 minutes for regular users.
  • Bring water to sip to keep you hydrated, and try to hydrate first, preferably with a liquid containing electrolytes.
  • Leave if you feel lightheaded or dizzy. 
  • Shower first.
  • Try light stretching while you sweat if you choose a post-workout sauna. This should help regulate breathing and take your mind off the heat, which could reduce stress, help you relax, and ease muscle soreness. 
  • Try a lower-intensity infrared sauna before progressing to a dry sauna or steam rooms with higher temperatures and humidities. 
  • Give it a pass if you’re pregnant or suffer from a pre-existing heart condition or low blood pressure — it’s not worth it.

Is It a Good Idea to Combine a Sauna With Your Workout?

You might have spied some avid gym-goers working out in a sauna, but it isn’t necessary and will likely make you feel dizzy and nauseous. 

Some evidence suggests that a sauna will ramp up calorie burn by increasing your body temperature and heart rate, but it could lead to heat exhaustion. 

Exercise trends like hot yoga and Inferno Hot Pilates have been shown to improve calorie burn, but they’re (generally) performed in lower temperatures than in a sauna. [8]

Some studios offer short workouts in an infrared sauna, but they will be limited to short bursts of 15 minutes and include isometric (think planks) and low-weight exercises. 

In short, we don’t recommend throwing around heavy weights in high heat. Your body is already under stress and adding high temperatures is unlikely to help. However, if you plan to go ahead with it, aim for no longer than 15 to 30 minutes of light exercise

Overall, there is no necessity to pair the sauna with a workout. Your desire to do so, good tolerance of a sauna session, and absence of contraindications will determine whether you should actually combine a sauna with a workout. 

Wrapping Up

So, should you do a sauna before or after workouts, and is there a “best time” to use the sauna at the gym? 

  • A sauna after workouts could improve muscle soreness and aid relaxation in some cases. 
  • A sauna before a workout could warm up your muscles, improve blood flow, and get your heart rate ready for exercise alongside an exercise-based warm-up. 
  • Limit your exposure to 5 to 20 minutes to maximize the benefits and limit risks.
  • Wait 10 minutes after exercise to use the sauna.
  • Avoid sauna exposure if you suffer from hypertension, low blood pressure, or if you’re pregnant. 
  • Always check with a medical professional if you are at risk of chronic health conditions. 
  • Limit sauna time to 15 to 30 minutes if you plan to exercise in the sauna, and avoid high-intensity weight training.
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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