Sauna Use for Fitness
A sauna session lets you indulge in a bit of heat while bringing overall wellness.
Infrared heat exposure induces mild hyperthermia. Mild hyperthermia increases core temperature. It induces protective mechanisms within the body like neuroendocrine responses.
It helps restore homeostasis while conditioning the body for future stressors by regulating blood flow levels throughout your organs.
A recent study has found that sauna sessions increase lifespan and significantly reduce mortality rates and disease.
The Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) Study followed over 2,300 men for 30 years to identify the health benefits of sauna sessions.
One intriguing finding is that moderate use led to a 40% decrease in the death rate from all causes compared to those without sauna sessions at all.
While more frequent or longer sessions were associated with even lower risks, especially when administered before middle age.
The usage of saunas has been linked to improved cardiovascular health.
A recent study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that men who used the sauna 2-3 times per week are 27% less likely to die from cardiovascular-related causes than those who did not use a sauna at all.
The study conducted by the Karolinska Institute for Habilitation Dementia Research (KIHD) found something interesting about frequent sauna users.
Those who use saunas have lower risk than non-sauna goers when it comes to cognitive decline-related illnesses such as Alzheimer's or dementia. Learn more: Can Frequent Sauna Use Reduce Memory Loss?
How Does Infrared Heat Affect Your Body?
One thing that sets a Finnish sauna apart from infrared saunas is, traditional sauna cultures use wood heated fires for heat. This practice is still observed today in rural parts of Finland.
While most modern saunas are heated by conventional electric or infrared heaters which have their own pros/cons.
Unlike traditional saunas that operate at higher temperatures like 90°C (194°F), infrared saunas work best. It heats up all over your body with thermal radiation starting from 45º Celsius or 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
Infrared heaters are perfect if you have sensitive skin as they emit fewer UV rays than sunlight and can help relieve stress while also warming the surrounding air in colder climates.
Infrared heaters offer benefits such as relieving stress without emitting extreme heat. Ideal for people who are more susceptible to sunburns or other extreme weather conditions because of their delicate skin type.
Infrared heating systems use ceramic or metallic rods with electric current running through. These elements produce radiation in the form of light waves that reaches your body's surface temperature.
You will notice an increase in circulation, elimination of toxins, and improved muscle recovery time after exercise sessions. Learn more: Infrared Sauna VS Traditional Finnish Sauna
Heat Stress Responses
Exposure to high temperatures stresses the body, eliciting a rapid and robust response.
The skin's temperature rises first from 37°C 40 °C, then changes in core body temp happen quickly as it elevates slowly up to 38 ° C.
Sweating is usually an inevitable result of these radical alterations that occur once your whole system has adjusted to the infrared heat.
Exposure to high-temperature environments causes both increased heat production by cells because they have less oxygen due to reduced blood flow and decreased ability for sweating with consequent hyperthermia.
While the cardiac output and heart rate increase, the stroke volume remains the same.
Blood flow moves from your core and goes toward the skin, making you lose about 0.5 kilos of sweat during a sauna session. You will feel more energized with the oxygen levels increase in your heart muscles after a session.
Heat exposure can dehydrate the body and cause significant heat exhaustion.
When the brain senses the core blood volume decreasing too quickly in response to increased temperature levels, it triggers an increase in plasma volume.
Frequent sauna use will help your body get used to heat and optimize the response in future exposures.
It compensates for exposure to mild stressors by having exaggerated responses that are disproportionate to the magnitude of the original stimulus.
Physiological Heat Response
Hormetic stressors can elicit an array of positive responses in the body, such as repairing cell damage and protecting from future exposures to more devastating stresses by improving immunity.
The physiological responses to sauna sessions are similar to your experience during moderate-to vigorous-intensity exercise.
As an alternative form of physical activity, some people who cannot engage in rigorous or intense workouts due to chronic disease or disability find that sitting inside a sauna cabin is similar to working out.
Heat Shock Proteins
Heat-shock proteins (HSP) are a large and highly conserved family of proteins that play prominent roles in many cellular processes.
They're most prominently involved with immune functions, signaling cells, and regulating the cell cycle!
One major function of Hsp's is protecting against cellular stresses like oxidative damage caused by free radicals released through metabolic processes.
When these harmful compounds come into contact with proteins inside your body, they can disrupt the way those molecules work.
The heat shock proteins are crucial in maintaining the integrity of all cellular components. HSPs prevent protein disorder and aggregation by repairing damaged proteins.
Intrinsically disordered proteins are present in some of the most common cardiovascular diseases, and damaged protein aggregates are strongly implicated as a cause for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's Disease, and Huntington’s disease
FOXO3 (Forkhead Box O3)
FOXO3 proteins maintain healthy aging in several ways. They regulate DNA and protein damage during the lifespan by activating transcription factors responsible for regulating genes associated with longevity.
FOXOs activate growth factor receptors, protecting cells from oxidative stress-induced by reactive oxygen species that contribute to cellular senescence.
FOXO genes are the secret to longevity. They increase the production of proteins that regulate DNA repair, tumor suppression, and immune function to make up for the effects caused by aging.
It participates in autophagy and protects against apoptosis by inhibiting it. However, if cellular conditions become distressed, the same protective mechanisms can contribute to sensitisation towards programmed death.
Nrf2 is a transcription factor that provides the cell with cytoprotective, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory functions.
When activated by stressors such as oxidative or electrophilic damage to cells, Nrf2 travels to the nucleus where it orchestrates regulation of genes which protect these sources of harm.
Exposure to infrared heat activates the Nrf2 enzyme. It is a protein that protects cells against oxidative stress.
It is done by upregulating heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1). The HO-1 breaks down hemoglobin into carbon monoxide gas which helps with inflammation and bilirubin.
The downstream effect of HO-1 upregulation includes slowing the expression of pro-inflammatory molecules that are involved in cardiovascular disease.
Interleukin-6 (IL-6) & Interleukin-10 (IL-10)
Inflammation is a fundamental cause of chronic disease processes. The appropriate balance between pro-and anti-inflammatory factors will help to regulate the development and resolution of an inflammatory response.
IL-6 is a cytokine that dampens the inflammatory response in certain circumstances.
It has been shown to increase during hyperthermia and it's possible this will lead to an increased release of IL10, which opposes inflammation.
IL-6 reacts when there’s been an injury or damage, and this causes inflammation as well as increases the body's ability to heal itself.
Sauna sessions have been shown to provide a range of amazing health benefits.
From improving your heart and mental health, and endurance for sports. Sauna is considered safe for most healthy people with appropriate supervision.