The sauna has been a refuge for the mind and body for thousands of years. This serene retreat enhances your workout — improving performance, strength, and well-being.
A warm-up prepares your body for a safe workout by increasing muscle temperature and flexibility. Similarly, a pre-workout sauna warms muscles, improves blood flow, and promotes mental relaxation. This is why determining the optimal duration of your pre-workout sauna session is essential.
Read on to discover how long you should sit in a sauna before a workout and if it's better to sit in one before or after working out. We'll also discuss the right balance of time, body cues, and other vital insights.
How Long Should You Sit in a Sauna Before a Workout?
Using the sauna before your workout can do wonders for your health and improve your workout sessions. To answer the question, how long you should sit in a sauna before a workout depends on your exposure to saunas.
For beginners, limiting your sauna session to around 5 to 10 minutes is recommended. As you become more accustomed, extending the duration to 15 to 20 minutes can be suitable.
Keep in mind, sauna durations over this recommended time can result in dehydration or overheating. It's also important to note your body's reaction to the heat; if you feel overheated — get out immediately.
Sauna Use: Before or After Working Out?
Should you use a sauna before or after working out? This is a commonly asked question. Sauna bathing has no restrictions on when you can enjoy the steamy goodness.
While most gym-goers enjoy a blissed-out sauna session after their workout — some may prefer a pre-workout session to relax their muscles and improve blood flow. The following considerations would best help in making your decision:
Although both options offer potential benefits, choosing the right timing can enhance your overall workout experience.
Let’s compare sauna use for both before and after workout:
Based on the value provided to your workout — a pre-workout sauna session makes more sense. It enhances your warm-up, increases blood flow, and improves performance from the get-go.
This optimizes your results and helps you make the most out of your exercise.
Benefits of Sauna Before a Workout
A sauna session before working out can prepare your body for the exhausting workout ahead — while providing innumerable other benefits.
Some of these benefits include:
The sauna helps by increasing your core body temperature, which can increase your metabolic rate. High metabolism helps you burn more calories quicker.
Improved Warm-up and Blood Circulation
Increased core body temperature mimics the effects of a warm-up and increasing blood flow to the muscles. With improved blood circulation, your blood vessels dilate and deliver more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. This prepares them for exercise and reduces the risk of premature fatigue.
Regular sauna use may help improve cardiovascular endurance. The heat experienced in a sauna can stimulate adaptations in your body, such as an increased blood volume and improved thermoregulatory function. These adaptations can enhance your ability to endure physical exertion and perform better during workouts.
A sauna warm-up doesn't only prepare the body but also helps in mental readiness for physical activity. It provides an opportunity to focus, concentrate, and mentally prepare for the upcoming exercise or workout session. This can help improve performance and overall exercise adherence.
Increased core body temperature can facilitate efficient thermoregulation during exercise. This helps your body better adjust to the increased demands of physical activity, preventing sudden temperature spikes, and improving exercise tolerance.
Improved Respiratory Function
The heat and steam in the sauna can help loosen mucus in the airways, making it easier to clear out any congestion. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who have conditions such as asthma or bronchitis. By clearing the airways, sauna use may help improve breathing efficiency during exercise.
Can You Skip a Warm-Up If You Used the Sauna Before a Workout?
Unfortunately, no. While studies suggest that a sauna session before a workout can relax muscles and improve blood flow, it can't replace your warm-up. Pre-workout sauna sessions are more of an enhancement to your warm-ups than a substitute.
A good warm-up includes exercises that help you achieve a full range of motion and flexibility before your workout. For example, on chest day, you would focus on stretching your pecs, shoulder muscles, and triceps.
This is why replacing a warm-up with a sauna session is not possible. However, you can include light stretches in the sauna before your gym to avoid injuries.
While a sauna can be stress-relieving, it also stresses your body. Spending too much time in it can cause fatigue—making your muscles more susceptible to strain or injury during a workout.
Intense heat exposure from a sauna, combined with the physical exertion of a workout, can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Sweating excessively in the sauna and during exercise can result in electrolyte imbalances such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. If these electrolytes are not adequately replenished, it can lead to imbalances that may cause muscle cramps, weakness, fatigue, or even heart rhythm disturbances.
Also, if you're pregnant or have persistent health conditions, it's better to consult with your doctor first.
Precautions You Need to Take
To minimize the risks we stated above, follow the precautions listed below to optimize your sauna experience.
Drinking water or electrolyte-rich fluids during your sauna session to replenish the lost fluids and maintain proper hydration levels.
Following the recommended durations to avoid dehydration. Excessive heat exposure can hurt your workout performance.
After leaving the sauna, it's important to continue hydrating. This will help your body recover and maintain optimal hydration for your workout.
If you start feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or overly tired, it may be a sign that you have stayed in the sauna too long. In such cases, exit the sauna immediately, cool down, and rest before starting your workout.
Refrain from substituting the sauna for a proper warm-up routine.
Ideal Heat and Humidity for a Sauna
You may have decided whether to use a sauna before or after your workout based on your own needs. Whatever your decision is, a perfect sauna session is also about setting the proper humidity and temperature.
The general rule of thumb for this is the rule of 200. The rule states that your humidity and temperature total should reach 200.
For instance, if the temperature is set to 180°F, the ideal humidity would be 20%. By applying the rule of 200, we get 180 + 20 = 200.
Similarly, the temperature for dry saunas goes from 190F to 195F, with humidity levels as low as 5% to 10%. According to the same logic, 190 + 10 = 200.
You may be wondering why this even matters. When exposed to steam at a high temperature, it can feel hotter than dry heat. This is because steam contains water vapor, which can transfer heat faster than the air around us.
Hence, when you come into contact with steam, the water transfers heat to your body — making it feel hotter than in a dry heat environment.
With that in mind, if you want to optimize your sauna experience, we advise maintaining a lower temperature in a humid environment. If you favor intense heat, consider reducing humidity or throwing less water on the heated rocks.
The FAQ section
What Should I Do After I Go to the Sauna?
Cool down with a cold shower. You can also consume supplements with electrolytes for fluid loss or just take a breather and lie down.
What to Eat After a Sauna?
You would crave a salty snack due to the excessive sodium loss from sweating. Eat a nutrient-dense snack like nuts, bananas, and leafy greens. You can also go with water-rich fruits such as watermelons or pineapples.
Can You Use a Sauna Every Day?
Yes, if your body and doctor allow you to use the sauna daily, you can. However, ensure your session is not prolonged to avoid the potential health risks we listed above.
Conclusion: How Long to Sit in Sauna Before a Workout?
To recap, spending time in a sauna before a workout prepares your body and mind for physical activity. Start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the time based on your preference and tolerance for heat. You should also observe your body's signals and adjust the sauna temperature accordingly. By incorporating sauna sessions effectively and responsibly into your fitness routine — you can enhance your overall well-being and exercise experience.
If a shared sauna like those at the gym is not your cup of tea, you can always consider a personal sauna. Visit My Sauna World and find various indoor, outdoor, and traditional saunas for your home use. Also, don't hesitate to contact us with any questions; our team will be ready to help you!
SIGN UP. SAVE BIG.
Subscribe to be the first to know about our special monthly sauna sales, sent right to your inbox.