Maximising Fitness: Sauna Before or After Exercise for Enhanced Performance

sauna before or after exercise

Should you use the sauna before or after workout?

Exploring the integration of sauna sessions with fitness routines raises questions about the optimal timing for such practices.

Regular sauna use boasts numerous health benefits including improved cardiovascular and brain health, reduced inflammation, and enhanced muscle recovery. However, the effectiveness of sauna sessions in relation to workouts hinges on their timing—before or after exercise—as well as the duration and frequency of these sessions.

This article delves into the nuances of sauna timing concerning exercise, providing insights on how to maximize the health benefits while considering individual body cues and preferences. 

For those preferring privacy, personal saunas from Shym Saunas offer a convenient alternative to shared gym saunas. Contact us now to get a free quote!

Overview: A Side-By-Side Comparison Between the Benefits of Sauna Before and After Workout

Sauna Before GymSauna After Gym
Pros• Enhances your warm-up
• Makes physical activities feel less strenuous
• Improved exercise performance and tolerance
• Prevents sudden temperature increases during exercise
• Enhanced breathing efficiency during workout
• Can reduce post-exercise muscle soreness
• Faster calorie burning
• Enhanced muscle recovery and reduced soreness/stiffness
• Reduced oxidative stress
• Improved cardiovascular health
• Enhanced ability to combat infections
• Reduces stress and prevents mental health disorders
• Removes metabolic waste
• Aids in long-term weight management
• Enhances detoxification
Cons• Dehydration that can affect your workout
• Heightened risk of dizziness
• Extended use can increase muscle strain and injury during a workout
• Risk of heat exhaustion/stroke
• Amplifies dehydration
• Can stress the heart, especially in people with pre-existing conditions
• Fainting/dizziness

Sauna Before Workout: Pros and Cons

Using a sauna before your workout may serve as a supplemental part of your warm-up routine, enhancing relaxation and muscle preparation. However, it is important to note that it does not substitute for the active physical movements typically recommended for a pre-exercise warm-up. (More on this later.)

While some advocate for pre-workout sauna sessions citing benefits like stress relief from a tough day or strenuous exercise, it’s crucial to be cautious.

Inappropriate or excessive use of a sauna before exercising can lead to a range of health issues, underlining the need for careful consideration of sauna use in your fitness regimen.

7 Benefits of Sauna Before Workout

Source: Freepik

Hitting the sauna before a workout offers a lot of benefits by enhancing your warm-up sessions which leads to:

  • Minimised risk of fatigue during the workout
  • Making your workout feel less strenuous
  • Improved physical performance
  • Enhanced focus and concentration
  • Enhancing your breathing efficiency
  • Reduced muscle soreness
  • Faster calorie burning

#1 Improved Blood Circulation

Using a sauna before exercising can enhance your warm-up by increasing your body’s core temperature, mimicking traditional warm-up effects.

This elevation in temperature helps dilate blood vessels, boosting blood circulation and ensuring more oxygen and nutrients reach your muscles. This not only prepares the muscles for the upcoming physical activity but also minimizes the risk of fatigue, allowing for a more effective and prolonged workout.

Additionally, the enhanced blood flow helps alleviate muscle stiffness, making physical activity feel less strenuous and more manageable. It can make the transition into physical exercise easier and more efficient.

#2. Enhanced Endurance

Regular sauna use can boost cardiovascular endurance by prompting physiological adaptations like improved body temperature regulation and increased blood volume. These enhance physical performance and exertion capacity.

#3. Mental Preparedness

Sauna use aids in mental preparation for physical activities, offering a calm environment to enhance focus and concentration. Thus, potentially improving exercise performance and commitment to exercise routines.

#4. Temperature Regulation

As we’ve mentioned, pre-workout sauna sessions can help in acclimatizing the body to heat – also known as thermoregulation. This helps manage body temperature more effectively during exercise which prevents sudden temperature increases and improves exercise tolerance.

#5. Improved Respiratory Function

The heat from a sauna may alleviate respiratory congestion by loosening mucus, which is particularly beneficial for those with respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis. This enhances your breathing efficiency during physical activities.

#6. Decreased Muscle Soreness

Although evidence is limited, some studies suggest that pre-exercise sauna use might reduce muscle soreness and preserve your range of motion post-exercise, following the practices of some athletes.

#7. Increased Metabolism

Using a sauna before a workout can elevate your core body temperature. This, in turn, may boost your metabolic rate and allow for faster calorie burning.

5 Risks of Pre-Workout Sauna Sessions

Source: Pixabay

So, is it better to use a sauna before exercise?

Using a sauna before exercising can initially warm your muscles, but it’s not a substitute for a proper stretching routine. While it may assist in beginning your warm-up, there’s a risk of overheating which could negatively impact your performance during the actual workout.

Therefore, it’s important not to replace your standard warm-up exercises with sauna use alone.

Risks of sauna before a workout include the following:

  1. Dehydration: Saunas significantly increase sweating, leading to rapid fluid loss, which can be detrimental if not properly managed before exercising.
  2. Blood Pressure Concerns: Individuals with low blood pressure may face heightened risks of dizziness and faintness, exacerbating these conditions when transitioning to physical activity.
  3. Muscle Strain and Injury: Extended sauna use can fatigue muscles, potentially increasing the risk of strains or injuries during subsequent workouts.
  4. Heat-Related Illnesses: Combining the intense heat of a sauna with exercise magnifies the likelihood of suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  5. Electrolyte Imbalance: Heavy sweating from sauna use and exercise can deplete essential electrolytes like sodium and potassium, leading to muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, and other serious health issues.

For those with persistent health issues (e.g. dizziness or low blood pressure) or pregnant women, consulting a healthcare provider before engaging in sauna sessions is advised.

How Long to Sit in a Sauna Before Workout

For individuals considering a sauna session before exercising, it is advisable to keep these sessions relatively short and mild.

If you are new to sauna use, limit your time to 5-10 minutes at lower temperatures. This helps prevent excessive sweating and dehydration which could hinder your workout performance.

As you become more familiar with sauna sessions, you may gradually extend this duration to 15-20 minutes, but always be mindful of your body’s responses to the heat.

Overstaying in the sauna can lead to dehydration or overheating, so it’s crucial to exit the sauna if you start feeling excessively hot.

IMPORTANT: Drinking water during the sauna session is also essential to counteract the loss of fluids.

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

No, using a sauna before a workout does not eliminate the need for a proper warm-up. Although a pre-workout sauna can relax muscles and enhance blood circulation, it does not adequately prepare the body for physical activity.

Warm-ups are crucial as they involve specific exercises that increase your range of motion, gently raise your heart rate, and prepare your muscles for the types of movements they will perform during the workout.

Even though dynamic stretches can be done in the sauna, they must be performed cautiously to prevent overheating and potential injury.

Sauna After Workout: Pros and Cons

Hitting the sauna after exercising or workout offers benefits similar to that of a pre-workout sauna with the added benefit of muscle recovery, among other things. The heat helps alleviate muscle stiffness and soreness, aiding in the rebuilding process necessary for muscle strengthening. More detailed discussions are below:

5 Benefits of Sauna After Workout

Source: Freepik

To give you an overview, the benefits of hitting the sauna after a workout include improved:

  • Muscle recovery
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Immune system
  • Mental health
  • Weight loss management
  • Metabolic waste management

#1. Enhanced Muscle Recovery

The heat from the sauna causes blood vessels to dilate, thereby increasing blood flow to the muscles. This increased circulation delivers more oxygen and nutrients, which are crucial for repairing muscles and alleviating inflammation caused by microscopic tears during exercise.

The heat helps relax the muscle fibers, easing tension and reducing stiffness, which contributes to a quicker recovery.

Furthermore, the sauna’s warm environment can significantly reduce the intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), making it easier to resume your training faster and maintain your progress.

Also, studies have shown that spending time in a sauna can cut muscle soreness by up to 47% within just 24 hours after exercise. This is due to the enhanced removal of waste products (more on this later), which is accelerated by the improved blood flow.

In addition to immediate physical benefits, using a sauna also has a longer-term impact at the cellular level, promoting overall muscle health and reducing oxidative stress induced by vigorous workouts. For instance, one research noted a reduction in oxidative stress by as much as 17.5% following a single sauna session.

While the sauna offers substantial benefits in terms of muscle relaxation and recovery, it’s important to note that it is not a cure-all for severe muscle injuries.

In cases of persistent or intense muscle tension, consulting a healthcare professional or physical therapist is recommended to ensure appropriate care and treatment.

#2. Improved Overall Health

Sauna after a workout can reduce the risk of certain health conditions by improving your cardiovascular health and immune system:

Improved Cardiovascular Health

Regular sauna use can improve heart health by reducing blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) such as heart disease and stroke.

Research, including a review by the Mayo Clinic, highlights the health benefits of sauna bathing, noting reductions in vascular diseases like:

  • High blood pressure
  • CVD
  • Stroke
  • Neurocognitive diseases

Also, a notable Finnish study observed that frequent sauna users had a significantly lower risk of heart disease-related mortality and overall mortality compared to less frequent users.

These diseases include:

  • Sudden cardiac death (SCD)
  • Fatal coronary heart disease (CHD)
  • Fatal cardiovascular disease
Enhanced Immune System

Sauna sessions can boost the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells through the mild stress response triggered by heat exposure. This process enhances the body’s ability to combat infections.

Improved blood circulation from sauna use also helps in transporting immune cells more effectively throughout the body, thereby potentially improving immune responses.

#3. Improved Mental Wellbeing

Regular sauna use after workouts not only helps in physical detoxification but also acts as a mental reset, clearing the mind, improving mood, and fortifying mental health. 

Stress Relief

The warm and serene setting of a sauna aids in relaxation and provides a perfect environment for stress relief. It also creates an ideal space for introspection and mindfulness practices.

Increased Endorphins

Activities such as deep breathing, meditation, or simply unwinding in quiet contemplation within the sauna can greatly increase the release of endorphins, known as the body’s natural mood elevators.

But a more scientific explanation for this is that the sauna’s warmth causes an increase in heart rate, similar to what happens during mild exercise. This cardiovascular boost not only helps with physical recovery but also replicates exercise-induced endorphin release, which is crucial for promoting feelings of pleasure and overall well-being.

Prevents Mental Health Disorders

The heat from the sauna improves circulation throughout the body, including to the brain. This enhanced blood flow helps reduce fatigue, potentially decreasing the incidence of depression and preventing mental health disorders.

#4. Aids in Weight Loss

Using a sauna after workouts can support weight loss efforts when combined with a balanced diet and regular exercise. It serves as a supplementary element to an overall healthy lifestyle program.

Using a sauna after workouts can contribute to long-term weight management, primarily through indirect effects rather than direct fat loss.

Initially, weight lost in a sauna is predominantly water weight, which is quickly regained once hydration is restored. However, consistent sauna use can elevate heart rate and slightly increase calorie burn due to the higher core body temperature, which can boost metabolism and help in losing body fat.

#5. Releases Toxins

Using a sauna after exercising can significantly enhance the detoxification process.

Sweating induced by the heat helps eliminate contaminants such as heavy metals, BPAs, and PCBs. Additionally, sweating binds with and removes bacteria along with dead skin cells, improving skin health.

3 Safety Risks of a Sauna After a Workout

Source: Pixabay

Despite the numerous benefits of sauna after exercise, it can also pose a few health risks including dehydration and dizziness.

IMPORTANT: Those with chronic conditions (e.g. heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes) or the elderly should consult their physician before sauna use due to heightened dehydration risks.

#1. Amplifies Dehydration

Dehydration remains the most significant risk associated with sauna use, which is why health professionals are advocating for the intake of sufficient fluids and electrolytes.

It is crucial to recognize that entering a sauna after a workout without adequate hydration can escalate health dangers. Saunas elevate body temperature, prompting extensive sweating and fluid loss, intensifying dehydration risks.

If fluids and electrolytes lost during exercise are not replenished before sauna use, severe consequences such as dizziness, muscle cramps, or even heatstroke may occur. The latter can potentially result in organ damage or death.

Preventive measures like adequate fluid intake before, during, and after sauna use can mitigate dehydration risks.

Signs of mild to moderate dehydration include:
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive thirst
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased urine output

#2. Health Complications

Using a sauna after exercising can significantly stress the heart, particularly in individuals with pre-existing heart conditions.

The heat from a sauna prompts the body to redirect blood from essential organs to the skin’s surface to aid in cooling. This shift requires the heart to increase its blood pumping rate, intensifying stress on this crucial organ.

While such stress can be beneficial and similar to that experienced during physical exercise for healthy individuals, it may pose severe risks for those with heart conditions like high-risk heart disease, angina, or hypertension.

Also, although saunas are generally considered safe for those with stable heart conditions or mild heart failure, these individuals must consult their healthcare provider before sauna use.

#3. Fainting / Dizziness

Transitioning directly from a cold gym environment to the intense heat of a sauna can lead to vasovagal syncope, characterized by a sudden decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, potentially causing fainting. This condition often presents initial symptoms such as nausea or lightheadedness.

To mitigate this risk, it’s advised to start with shorter sauna sessions at lower temperatures to assess your tolerance.

Feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness while in the sauna are indicators that you should exit immediately.

How Long to Sit in Sauna After Workout

For optimal results, wait for at least 10 minutes but not exceeding 30 minutes before you enter the sauna after your workout. This helps your body adjust, and staying inside should not exceed 20 minutes.

This practice not only aids in relaxation but also considers safety, as your heart rate may still be high from the workout. Entering a sauna too soon can increase discomfort or dizziness due to the combined effects of elevated heart rate and potential dehydration.

To mitigate these risks, hydrate adequately before entering and consider doing some light stretching to help your body recover and prepare for heat exposure.

Other Important Things to Know About Sauna Use

Source: Freepik

Common Risk of Sauna Before and After Exercise: Lowered Sperm Count

Research indicates that regular sauna sessions can lead to a temporary decrease in sperm count due to the elevated temperatures experienced during use.

Specifically, a study published in 2013 observed men who underwent two 15-minute sauna sessions weekly over a three-month period and found a reduction in their sperm count. However, this effect was reversible, with sperm levels normalizing after discontinuing sauna use.

DJ Mazzoni, a medical reviewer at Illuminate Labs, highlights the sensitivity of testicles to heat, noting that prolonged exposure can impair sperm function and motility. This suggests that men who are trying to conceive might consider limiting their sauna usage to mitigate potential impacts on fertility.

Nevertheless, the general consensus remains that the advantages of sauna use for most men can outweigh these temporary risks.

3 Common Sauna Types

  • Dry Sauna: Dry saunas (e.g. Finnish-style saunas) use electric heaters or burning wood to heat sauna rocks along with the room to achieve high temperatures with low humidity, often enhanced briefly by water thrown on heated rocks.
  • Steam Sauna (Steam Rooms): Steam rooms (like Turkish bath houses) generate a humid environment through boiling water, maintaining 100% humidity at lower temperatures than dry saunas, and are fully enclosed to keep steam concentrated.
  • Infrared Sauna: Infrared saunas heat the body directly via infrared lamps, allowing for intense sweating at lower temperatures around 140°F (60°C), with ongoing research into their health impacts.

Can You Use a Sauna Every Day? Should You Use a Sauna Whenever You Work Out?

Regular sauna use is safe and beneficial, with health advantages increasing with frequency. Studies indicate that using a sauna two to seven times weekly significantly lowers the risk of sudden cardiac death and decreases the likelihood of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.

IMPORTANT: Always consult a healthcare provider before incorporating sauna sessions into your daily routine.

Should You Sauna Before or After Workout to Lose Weight?

Using a sauna before or after a workout may lead to temporary body mass loss primarily due to fluid loss, not fat loss, which could increase the risk of dehydration. However, consistent use can increase your calorie burn and help lose body fat when paired with regular exercise and a balanced diet.

What is the Ideal Temperature and Humidity for a Sauna?

For an optimal sauna experience, aiming for a balance between temperature and humidity is crucial. Typically, temperatures should range between 176 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity levels are ideally set between 10 to 20 percent.

Adhering to the “rule of 200” can help maintain this balance; the sum of the temperature and humidity should equal 200. For example, if the sauna temperature is 180°F, then a 20% humidity level complements this setting perfectly.

If you prefer a steamier setting, it’s advisable to keep the temperature on the lower side, whereas, for intense dry heat, reducing the humidity or using less water on the heated rocks is recommended.

Sauna Safety Tips: Precautions You Need to Take to Optimize Your Fitness Routine

  • Stay in the sauna for no more than 20 minutes, starting with 5-10 minutes if you are a beginner, to build heat tolerance and prevent heat stress.
  • Hydrate adequately before, during, and after sauna sessions, using water or electrolyte-rich fluids to maintain hydration levels.
  • Exit the sauna and cool down if you experience symptoms like lightheadedness or dizziness, indicating excessive heat exposure.
  • Engage in warm-up exercises post-sauna session to activate muscles for subsequent workouts.
  • Consider light stretching during post-workout sauna sessions to aid relaxation and alleviate muscle soreness.
  • Gradually adapt to sauna use by starting with milder infrared saunas before moving to more intense dry saunas or steam rooms.
  • Do not replace your regular warm-up routine with sauna time.
  • Avoid sauna use if you have high or low blood pressure, are pregnant, or have respiratory or cardiovascular conditions.
  • Consult a healthcare professional before using a sauna if you have chronic health issues.
  • Allow a 10-minute cooling period post-exercise before entering the sauna.

More Tips on Sauna Etiquette

  • Shower First: Always shower to remove sweat and dirt before entering the sauna to maintain cleanliness and comfort for everyone.
  • Dress Appropriately: Wear a bathing suit or towel in the sauna, even if other places might allow nudity.
  • Respect Space: Be mindful of the space you occupy and ensure there is room for others to join without feeling crowded.
  • Limit Your Time: Keep sauna sessions to no more than 20 minutes to allow others a chance to use the facilities.
  • Keep Quiet: Maintain a quiet environment to preserve the peaceful nature of the sauna experience.
  • Leave Workouts Outside: Avoid exercising in the sauna; it’s a place for relaxation, not for fitness routines.
  • No Electronics: Store your phone, tablet, and other devices in your locker to avoid damage from heat and to enhance your relaxation.

The Verdict: So, Should You Hit the Sauna Before or After a Workout?

Deciding whether to hit the sauna before or after the gym depends on your fitness goals and health. Using a sauna before exercising can help warm up your muscles, but should not replace a full warmup. Post-workout, the sauna may be more beneficial for muscle recovery and stress reduction.

Take your workouts to the next level with Shym Saunas sustainable and intricately crafted saunas in Australia. Reach out to us now!


Should I do sauna before or after a workout?

You should primarily use a sauna after your workout for optimal benefits like enhanced muscle recovery and stress reduction. While using a sauna before your workout can warm up your muscles, it should not replace your regular warm-up routine due to risks like dehydration and overheating which could negatively impact your performance and safety during exercise.

Should you use a sauna to warm up before a workout?

Using a sauna to warm up before a workout is not recommended as a substitute for a traditional warm-up routine. While it can help relax muscles and enhance blood circulation, it lacks the specific physical preparations such as stretching and gradual heart rate increase that a proper workout warm-up provides.

What does 10 minutes in a sauna do?

Spending 10 minutes in a sauna can increase your core body temperature, dilate blood vessels, and enhance blood flow, which relaxes muscles and alleviates muscle stiffness. It also initiates sweating, which can help detoxify the body and improve skin health by removing impurities.

When should you go to the sauna?

The ideal time to visit the sauna is post-workout as it helps in muscle recovery, reduces stress, and enhances overall relaxation. If using a sauna before exercise, limit the session to a brief period (5-10 minutes) at a mild temperature to avoid excessive sweating and dehydration, but always follow it with a proper physical warm-up.

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