Frequency of Sauna Use
- 4-7 times per week
Duration of Each Session
- 20 minutes (gradually increasing from shorter durations)
- 79 degrees Celsius (174 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Engage in a cooling period (a cold shower, a plunge into a cold pool, or sitting in a cooler environment)
Hydration and Electrolytes
- Stay adequately hydrated; consume a beverage rich in electrolytes to replenish minerals lost through sweating
Listening to Your Body
- Start slow, gradually build up sauna resilience over time; exit the sauna if feeling dizzy, nauseous, or uncomfortable
Many proponents of this sauna practice point to its benefits, citing improved athletic endurance, prevention of muscle atrophy, enhanced insulin sensitivity, increased neurogenesis, and better learning and memory. One such proponent is Dr. Rhonda Patrick, a biomedical scientist and expert in nutritional health. Her insights on the potential benefits of regular sauna use in her video "Hyperthermic Conditioning and Longevity" has further ignited interest in this area.
In her video, Dr. Patrick reviews a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine that shows the relationship between sauna use and longevity. Let's dive deeper into the findings of this study and what they mean for the average sauna enthusiast.
The Study and Its Findings
The study, which involved over 2,000 middle-aged men over 20 years, investigated the correlation between the frequency of sauna use and mortality from fatal cardiac events, cardiovascular diseases, and even cancer. The findings were astonishing. Men who used the sauna two to three times per week had a 27% lower risk of fatal cardiovascular disease compared to those who used it only once a week. Additionally, those who frequented the sauna four to seven times per week saw a staggering 50% reduction in fatal cardiovascular disease. Regarding overall mortality, frequent sauna users saw their risk drop by 24-40%, once again highlighting the potential benefits of regular sauna use.
The saunas used in the study operated at around 79 degrees Celsius or 174 degrees Fahrenheit. These traditional saunas, often found in Finland, are commonly accompanied by a splash of water over hot rocks to increase humidity. This level of heat may not be replicable in other forms of saunas, such as hot tubs, steam rooms, or infrared saunas, which typically operate at lower temperatures. It's crucial to note that while these alternatives may still offer health benefits, they might not align directly with the study's findings.
Rhonda Patrick's Recommended Sauna Protocol
Dr. Rhonda Patrick is a trusted source when it comes to developing a sauna use protocol. Based on her extensive studies and the wealth of scientific data available, she recommends the following:
Frequency of Sauna Use: Aim for a frequency of four to seven sauna sessions per week. This recommendation is derived from the study mentioned earlier, which showed the most significant benefits in terms of cardiovascular disease reduction and overall mortality at this frequency.
Duration of Each Session: Dr. Patrick suggests sauna sessions lasting 20 minutes at a time. However, it is essential to start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the duration as your body adjusts to the heat.
Temperature: An ideal sauna temperature is around 79 degrees Celsius (174 degrees Fahrenheit), the average temperature of the saunas used in the Finnish study. However, depending on the type of sauna you are using, temperatures may vary. For instance, infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures but can still produce excellent health benefits due to their ability to penetrate deeper into the body. You can even purchase a hybrid traditional and infrared sauna such as the Medical Sauna Nature 8 Plus or Nature 9 Plus available for purchase in our store.
Post-Sauna Cooling: After each sauna session, Dr. Patrick recommends a cooling period. This could be a cold shower, a plunge into a cold pool, or simply sitting in a cooler environment. This rapid change in body temperature can stimulate the cardiovascular system and has additional health benefits. Backyard Escapism offers cold water therapy tubs for contrast therapy that could make a perfect addition to your post-sauna routine.
Hydration and Electrolytes: Given the extensive sweating during a sauna session, it's crucial to stay adequately hydrated. Drink water before, during, and after each session. Additionally, consider consuming a beverage rich in electrolytes to replenish the minerals lost through sweating.
Listening to Your Body: Above all, it's essential to listen to your body. Everyone has a unique tolerance to heat, and what works for one person might not work for another. Start slow, and gradually build up your sauna resilience over time. If you ever feel dizzy, nauseous, or uncomfortable in any way, exit the sauna.
Sauna Use and Heart Health
What could be the scientific explanation behind the heart health benefits of sauna use? One possible theory is that a sauna session mirrors the effects of physical exercise. Moderate sauna use can elevate heart rate up to 200 beats per minute, while intense sessions can reach up to 150 beats per minute, mirroring moderate-intensity physical exercise. Long-term sauna use has been linked with improvements in blood pressure, endothelial function, and ventricular function, all contributing to overall heart health. You can read more about the benefits of sauna use before and after workouts in this article.
Molecular Explanations for Longevity
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the study is the link between sauna use and longevity. Dr. Patrick delves into the molecular mechanisms that could explain this correlation. Heat stress induced by sauna use and exercise activates genes responsible for producing Heat shock proteins (HSPs), critical to cellular health. These proteins help maintain the proper 3-dimensional structure of other proteins within cells, ensuring their longevity and functionality. HSPs also increase the lifespan of organisms like worms and flies, and it's plausible that these proteins might contribute to human longevity as well.
Another molecular pathway associated with longevity is the activation of the Foxo3 gene. Humans with a gene polymorphism that increases Foxo3 expression have a significantly higher chance of becoming centenarians. Similarly, mice genetically engineered to produce more Foxo3 experience a 30% increase in lifespan. Foxo3 acts as a master regulator of many genes involved in cellular resilience to various age-related stresses. It protects against DNA damage, promoting cellular health and potentially contributing to human longevity. For more in-depth information about the science behind sauna use, you might find this article enlightening.
The Importance of Hydration
Regular sauna use can cause significant sweating, leading to fluid loss and potential dehydration. It's crucial to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your sauna session. Maintaining proper hydration helps regulate body temperature, supports cardiovascular function, and promotes overall well-being.
Moreover, prolonged sweating can deplete crucial minerals like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. It's essential to replenish these electrolytes to prevent muscle cramps and maintain optimal bodily function.
Exploring Different Sauna Types
While traditional saunas, as used in the study, have demonstrated promising benefits for longevity, it's worth exploring other sauna types as well. One such type is the far-infrared sauna (FIR), which uses infrared light to generate heat. FIR saunas can penetrate deeper into the body, promoting relaxation and potential therapeutic effects. Some individuals find FIR saunas particularly helpful for alleviating connective tissue and neuromuscular pain.
To understand more about the differences between traditional and infrared outdoor saunas, and which might be the best fit for you, read this article.
Sauna use has emerged as a fascinating area of study, with potential positive implications for longevity. The association between regular sauna use and decreased risk of fatal cardiovascular disease and overall mortality is indeed remarkable. Heat stress induced by saunas activates heat shock proteins, which protect cellular health and longevity. Furthermore, the activation of the Foxo3 gene through sauna use enhances cellular resilience and safeguards against DNA damage, ultimately promoting longevity.
While the specific sauna parameters used in the study may not directly apply to all sauna types, the overall benefits of sauna use on heart health and longevity are encouraging. It's important to consult with healthcare professionals and listen to your body's signals when determining the appropriate sauna duration, temperature, and frequency that work best for you.
Remember to prioritize hydration and replenish electrolytes during extended sauna sessions. Whether you choose a traditional sauna or explore alternative types like FIR saunas, incorporating sauna use into your wellness routine may provide a range of potential health benefits.