Just as there are plenty of benefits of warming up before a workout, cooling down has just as many advantages. But you should also be strategic with how to cool down after workout, so make sure to do those cool down stretches. Whatever your cool down routine may be, you should still unwind.
As you finish your cool down after a strenuous workout (whether you’re doing it by yourself or by joining group exercise classes), you may start to feel your calf muscles tighten, your shoulders stiffen, and your glutes tense. While some may opt for a cold ice bath to relieve aches and discomfort, engulfing your body in heat can also help relax your muscles and promote post-workout recovery.
If you’re lucky enough to unwind in a sauna, you may be able to prevent elastic tissue damage and soreness.
But how long should you stay in a sauna?
Generally speaking, you should probably keep your sauna sessions between 10 and 20 minutes.1 Much longer than that, and you’re risking dehydration. However, sauna use for each individual may vary, so let’s look a little closer at factors that could influence your post-workout heat recovery.
Factors that Influence Your Ideal Sauna Time
After a hard workout, many people relax and aid their recovery with a sauna session. But how long should you be in a sauna? There are a few factors to consider to maximize your recovery:2
Experience – The first thing you should consider when deciding how long to stay in a sauna is how accustomed you are to levels of heat. Typically, saunas can be anywhere between 150 and 195 degrees Fahrenheit, which can take a toll on your body. As such, five minutes is a good starting point for those new to steam sauna recovery.On the other hand, if you’re an experienced sauna user, you may find longer stints more beneficial. Some experienced users enjoy sessions of 45 to 50 minutes.
Age – While younger individuals may choose to use a sauna, it’s best to limit their time in the sauna and have them remain on lower benches where it doesn’t get as hot. 10 minutes is probably a good limit for a child, even if they’re experienced sauna users.3
Hydration – By far, the largest risk from saunas is dehydration and dizziness. The heat of a sauna causes you to sweat and lose body moisture. If too much moisture is lost, you risk dehydration. Be sure to hydrate both before and after your sauna sessions and listen to your body. If you start feeling light-headed, it’s best to end your session early.
Health – Used properly, you can experience the physical and mental health benefits. In fact, in a 2019 survey, sauna usage was associated with better mental health, and 83.5% of respondents saw an improvement in their sleep.4 That said, people with certain medical conditions may want to avoid the sauna. Recent cardiac issues such as myocardial infarction or unstable angina pectoris may be reasons to stay out of the sauna altogether. Additionally, if you’re pregnant, it’s best to avoid the sauna.
Types of Saunas
Beyond the factors mentioned above, you should also consider the type of sauna you’re using. Different saunas produce different levels and types of heat, which can affect how your body may react:2
Traditional sauna – Most of the recommendations have been geared to a traditional, dry-heat sauna. In these saunas, you reach maximum sweating by 15 minutes, so staying in longer may not be necessary. But if you’re experienced and well hydrated, you may enjoy longer sessions. (Note: A Finnish Sauna is considered a type of traditional sauna.)
Infrared sauna – As the name implies, this type of sauna uses infrared heat. While you can follow the same basic guidelines when using an infrared sauna, these saunas will not get as hot as traditional varieties. That means you’re at a lower dehydration risk, so you may be able to spend longer amounts of time in these types of saunas. However, there is still a recommended duration of infrared sauna usage, which is 45 to 50 minutes.
Steam room – These are sometimes called “wet saunas.” You’ll need to take the same precautions here as you would in traditional saunas. But, keep in mind that steam makes the heat more intense.
Sauna Health Benefits
While it has been found that saunas can benefit your mental well-being, a 2001 meta-analysis also looked into the potential physical benefits of using a sauna. Soaking in a sauna for 10 to 20 minutes post-workout may be advantageous for the following:3
Cardiovascular and muscular health – When you immerse your body in heat, your blood flow increases, which may help support healthy blood pressure and move blood through your sore muscles to improve oxygen levels. As such, you may find that your muscles feel loose after a time spent in the sauna.
Lung health – Sauna bathing may also enhance lung capacity and function, particularly for those with asthma, bronchitis, or colds. So, if you’re finding that you’re panting excessively after your eight-minute mile, you may want to visit the sauna to bolster your lung power.4
Pain and mobility – For people dealing with joint discomfort, 40% to 70% of people who bathe in saunas regularly experienced less pain and better mobility.5
Skin – The steamy environment of a sauna may help to refresh and hydrate your skin. Sweating can also provide detoxifying benefits to keep post-workout breakouts at bay.
Optimize Your Fitness Routine at Chuze
Bathing in a sauna for 10 to 20 minutes after each workout may help maximize your recovery and keep your body feeling its best. Also, it feels just as relaxing as listening to your favorite playlist.
So aside from searching for gyms near me, you should consider searching for nearby saunas. At Chuze Fitness, we maximize your workout from warm-up to cool-down. Our gyms feature a variety of perks, including infrared saunas and steam rooms. And after you shower off, you can refuel at our Chuze blends smoothie bars.
Join the Chuze community today.
Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
Harvard Health Publishing. Sauna Health Benefits: Are saunas healthy or harmful? https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/saunas-and-your-health
SaunaVerse. How Long Can You Stay in a Sauna? https://saunaverse.com/how-long-can-you-stay-in-a-sauna/
The American Journal of Medicine. Benefits and risks of sauna bathing. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0002934300006719
Time. The Case For Sauna Bathing Is Stronger Than Ever. https://time.com/5354994/saunas-health-benefits/
Middle East Medical. Benefits and Risks of Sauna Bathing. https://www.middleeastmedicalportal.com/benefits-and-risks-of-sauna-bathing/
Complementary Therapies in Medicine. A hot topic for health: Results of the Global Sauna Survey. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0965229919300998
BBC News. Why Finland loves saunas. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24328773