How Authentic Finnish Sauna Helps With Exercise Performance & Muscle Recovery

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Taking regular Finnish sauna significantly increases the endurance of the locomotor and cardiorespiratory systems

Aiding muscle recovery and injury prevention

Most of us can appreciate the relaxation brought on by taking a sauna but recent studies have shown that they can help with a number of ailments and assist us in reaching our peak physical condition. A  2015 study found that sauna bathing significantly improves exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) symptoms concerning both pain intensity and muscle function. It mentions several well-evidenced explanations as to why frequent sauna bathing is capable of eliciting such effects, including its ability to promote capillary dilation, relieve muscular spasms, and improve ventricular function. They all increase oxygen, nutritional, and hormonal flow to the muscles and enable their successful function. 

The traditional way to end a Finnish sauna is by taking a cold plunge and, by submerging yourself in cold water immediately after and/or between sauna sessions has widely been regarded as an excellent way to improve muscle recovery and reduce pain. It’s why athletes have long been using post-exercise ice baths . What happens is the restricting of fluid diffusion into cells and utilising hydrostatic pressure to reduce post-exercise blood lactate levels.

Robbie Thompson is the PR Manager at Finnmark Sauna. He told us, “We’ve been looking very closely at sauna health benefits and evidence has shown that warming muscles prior to any form of exercise causes decreased resistance in muscles and joints, increased blood flow, improved carbon dioxide-oxygen exchange rates, and enhanced nutrition supply to the active structures. It also improves the fatigue characteristics of skeletal muscle during exercise, inhibits pain signals during muscle repair, causes smoother muscle contractions, and protects against strain injuries. Obviously, we can’t all come in and out of a sauna and jump into a gleaming, crystal clear lake in Finland, but thankfully taking a freezing cold shower during and post a Finnish sauna session works in the same way.”

How sauna improves exercise performance

Thermal training is most often used by those who compete in endurance-related sports and its goal is to improve thermoregulation mechanisms within the body, and causes a significant increase in prolonged exercise capacity. With Finnish sauna, you can independently increase the temperature and humidity to any required level during repeated bathing sessions. It means bathers are able to create a vast array of environments to expose themselves to and it ultimately helps them perform better because of it.

Finnish sauna has also been found to have positive respiratory effects. Indeed, as little as 3 weeks of post-exercise sauna bathing was found to produce a worthwhile enhancement of endurance running performance. Exercise performance has also been found to be improved through sauna via its effects on blood volume and muscle blood flow. Both of these improve exercise performance by increasing the amount of blood and oxygen being received by the muscles. Plasma volume increases during sauna bathing as a standard reaction to heat stress and it increases the amount of fluid in the blood and reduces its oxygen content.

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