That’s a sauna, and the picture also gives you the recommended temperature range (60-80 degrees centigrade) and how long you should stay in the “hot room” (10 to 20 minutes).
I started going to the sauna in the early 1970s, because I believed that this was an excellent way to detoxify oneself, and the deep penetrating heat killed pathogens.
I can’t help but remember that in those days, and probably still today, some naïve folks believed that you could lose weight in a sauna. All you lose is water and obviously weigh less right afterwards. Some of these fellows would wipe the sweat off their bodies with little sponges and collect their sweat in little plastic buckets to judge how much weight they had lost.
The detoxification and destruction of pathogens is quite valid, but you’ll be surprised, as I was, that:
- Increasing your core temperature for short periods, as is done in a sauna, may offer dramatic improvements to your athletic performance;
- This exposure to heat, called “hyperthermic conditioning”, causes the release of Human Growth Hormone (HGH);
- You also grow new brain cells from using a sauna;
- Heating your tissues several inches deep, not only kills pathogens, but can also enhance your natural metabolic processes.
How about that?
Now a bit more details.
HOW HEAT ACCLIMATION MAY BOOST YOUR ENDURANCE
Exercise, especially when done at high intensity, is one way to build your endurance, and perhaps it’s not a coincidence that this will also increase your body temperature at each session, just like high intensity exercise.
Hyperthermic conditioning also boosts endurance because it induces adaptations in your body that makes it easier for you to perform when your body temperature is elevated.
These adaptations include increased plasma volume and blood flow to your heart and muscles, increasing athletic endurance, along with increased muscle mass due to greater levels of heat-shock proteins and growth hormone.
In one study, those who had a 30-minute sauna session, after their workouts, twice a week for three weeks increased the time it took them to run until exhaustion by more than 30 %.
SAUNA USE MAY PROMPT A “MASSIVE” RELEASE OF GROWTH HORMONE
Recall my two posts on “HIIT” (February 26, 2015) and “Intermittent Fasting” (April 24, 2015). It was pointed out that the higher your levels of HGH, the healthier and stronger you will be. HIIT and Intermittent Fasting can help increase your HGH levels. Sauna use is another complimentary strategy.
Once you hit the age of 30, your levels of HGH begin to drop quite dramatically. This decline of HGH is part of what drives your aging process, so maintaining high HGH levels gets increasingly important with age.
HOW SAUNA USE MIGHT BENEFIT YOUR BRAIN
During exercise, fasting and, it appears, sauna use, nerve cells release proteins known as neurotropic factors, such as brain-derived neurotropic factors or BDNF (recall my post on “ Your Brain After a 20 Minute Walk” , April 9, 2015) . BDNF activates brain stem cells to produce new neurons and also triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health.
BDNF’s activity in both your muscles and your brain appears to be a major part of the explanation as to why a physical workout can have such a beneficial impact on your brain tissues.
Other research has shown that sauna use increases levels of norepinephrine, a hormone involved in stress response that increases focus and attention.
Sauna use also seems to boost endorphins, which give you the so-called “runner’s high” after strenuous exercise.
HEAT SHOCK PROTEINS: ANOTHER WAY SAUNA USE MAY PROMOTE MUSCLE GROWTH AND LONGEVITY
The release of HGH is just one way that hyperthermic conditioning increases muscle growth. It also reduces the level of protein degradation that naturally occurs during both MUSCLE USE and DISUSE. Remember, “use it or lose it”?
When rats were exposed to intermittent heat sessions, they had a “robust” expression of heat shock proteins (HSP) that was associated with 30 % more muscle regrowth compared to a control group.
The expression of HSPs PERSISTED for up to 48 hours after the heat session and may actually have lead to a higher expression of HSPs EVEN WHEN YOU’RE NOT EXERCISING.
SAUNA USE AND SUPPORTING MUSCLE RECOVERY AFTER AN INJURY
Heat treatments may even induce HSPs to help protect against rhabdomyolysis, a serious degenerative muscle tissue condition that is one of the MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS associated with the use of STATIN CHOLESTEROL-LOWERING DRUGS.
If you’ve had a muscle injury, you may be immobilized for lengthy periods, which generally cause muscle atrophy. Hyperthermic conditioning has been shown to SLOW MUSCLE ATROPHY during disuse by up to 32 % in one animal study.
If you’ve had an injury you may be immobilized but you don’t have to be very mobile to sit in a sauna a few times a week to boost your HSPs.
SAUNA USE MAY EVEN HELP TRIGGER INCREASED INSULIN SENSITIVITY
Hyperthermic conditioning is also known to help improve insulin sensitivity, which may be yet another route by which it ultimately boosts muscle growth and performance.
One animal study determined that 30 minutes of hyperthermic treatment, three times a week for 12 weeks, resulted in a 31 % decrease in insulin levels and a significant reduction in blood sugar levels. We can surmise that leptin levels were also reduced.
This has implications not only for your muscles, of course, but also for many chronic diseases that are driven by insulin resistance, like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, among others.
A BRIEF GUIDE TO SAUNA PROTOCOL
Here is how one uses a sauna:
- Take a warm shower, but don’t dry yourself.
- Go into the sauna and stay in there from 10 to 15 minutes; if you are new to this, start out with 10 minutes.
- After you come out take a cold shower. The classic way was to jump in an ice-cold pool; most saunas don’t have this anymore. Don’t dry yourself.
- Go to the “terrace”, this is outside winter temperature and stay out there until you feel a chill. This means going outside and frolicking in the snow in Finland. I haven’t seen a “terrace” in any of the new saunas in Istanbul.
- Go to the “rest area” which is dark, warm and lie on the lounge chair and relax as long as you please. I do this for 5-10 minutes.
This is round one. Repeat the above protocol two more times. If you move up to a higher level in the “hot room” you will be exposed to higher heat in subsequent rounds.
Think seriously about using a sauna as part of your weekly routine; the benefits are unbelievable.
See you next week.