Can a sauna session improve metabolism? And can sauna lower stress levels to a measurable degree? What are the health benefits associated with this ancient form of heat therapy? Through my research and personal experience, I have understood heat's decisive role in increasing metabolism, lowering stress and promoting overall health. But to really understand the impact I have digged into the specific literature and boiled down the highlights for you.

What are the Effects of Using a Sauna on Your Metabolism?

When we sit in a sauna, the intense heat causes our bodies to work harder to maintain a stable internal temperature. As a result, our heart rate increases, and blood vessels dilate, leading to increased blood flow. This increased circulation allows for better distribution of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, boosting our metabolism.
Moreover, sweating is a natural way for our bodies to get rid of toxins and waste products. Saunas promote this process by inducing profuse sweating, thereby aiding in detoxification. 
This further helps improve metabolism by reducing the burden on our liver and kidneys, the primary organs responsible for detoxification. And by the way, our kidneys work so hard when we have high cholesterol, so sweating in the sauna help maintain a healthy cholesterol level.

Decrease in Serum Cortisol Levels

Cortisol, also known as the "stress hormone," is produced in response to healthy stress and helps regulate various bodily functions. However, too much cortisol can lead to adverse effects like weight gain, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. And chronic high levels leads to cardiovascular disease with high atherosclerosis, heart attacks and stroke as some of the worst outcomes if not taken care of.

Studies have shown that sauna sessions can reduce cortisol levels, improving metabolism and a more balanced hormonal state.

In a study by Robert Podstawski and colleagues they aimed to investigate the effect of sauna sessions on hormone levels in male students with moderate and high levels of physical activity. 

The participants were selected based on their self-reported weekly physical activity, expressed in MET units. This measure of oxygen consumption at rest is estimated to be 3.5 mL/kg/min. The participants were divided into low, moderate, and high activity levels based on their physical activity frequency, intensity, and duration.

The intervention was that all participants visited a dry sauna during the same time of day, in the exact location, and for the same duration to minimize any diurnal variation effects on results. The temperature and relative humidity in the sauna were kept constant at 90°C and 14%–16%, respectively.

Each participant attended four sauna sessions, lasting 12 minutes each, with breaks of 6 minutes in between. Blood samples were collected before and after the four sauna sessions. The hormone levels tested included cortisol, testosterone, prolactin II, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA-S).

The results showed a significant decrease in serum cortisol levels after sauna sessions, with no significant changes in the other hormone levels. This suggests that saunas have a positive effect on reducing stress levels in the body, therefore promoting relaxation and physical and mental health.

Helps with Weight Loss

Now, here's an interesting question: Can spending time in a sauna help you lose weight? The answer might surprise you. Research has shown that regular sauna use can help lose weight and improve body composition. How does this happen?

Let's dive into a study conducted by Jari A Oksanen and colleagues, where they examined the effects of sauna bathing on body weight and physiological responses.  The study found that body mass loss (BML) was significantly higher in people with a higher body weight and correlated positively with indices such as heart rate, energy expenditure, and respiratory rate.

They analyzed data from two previous studies in which they measured BML in participants after sauna bathing. They found that, on average, for every kilogram increase in body mass, BML values increased by 0.0144 kg in women and 0.0146 kg in men. The sweating begins shortly after entering the sauna and peaks at around 15 minutes if the sauna is about 80 C. On average, approximately 0.5 kg of sweat is secreted during sauna bathing.

Moreover, body core temperature increases by 0.1 to 0.25°C for every percent of BML. The study also noted that sauna-induced BML can range from 400-600 g in short sessions of about 15 minutes.

Final Thoughts on Sauna and Metabolism

As a Thermalist educator and metabolic scientist, I find the relationship between sauna and metabolism fascinating. Not only does it improve insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes, but it also aids in weight loss by increasing body mass loss through sweating. 

The studies I mentioned above provide evidence for the beneficial effects of sauna on metabolism and its potential as a therapeutic tool for various health conditions. 

The Thermalist™ Education

The Thermalist™ Education is your gateway to a wealth of knowledge and practical protocols for contrast therapy, incorporating methods like cold water immersion and sauna treatments. Our program provides in-depth insights into these techniques, demonstrating their profound impact on metabolism. By participating in this education, you'll not only gain a deeper understanding of how contrast therapy can elevate Growth Hormone Levels and improve insulin sensitivity but also learn how to effectively implement these practices in real-life scenarios for maximum health benefits.

Learn more about Thermalist Education