Far from being the lair of gym layabouts, science says that time spent sweating it out can boost body and mind
Yes, it’s summer. Yes, the gym sauna has a reputation for housing very body-confident Scandinavians. But to go straight from gym floor, to shower, to office chair is to do your health and fitness a disservice. Swap a gruelling Tabata in the Elevation Chamber for a relaxing, research-approved finisher and you’ll maximise your body’s adaptations to exercise, while also bolstering brain and heart health. That means you can worry less about the readings on your fitness tracker and relax. Though the stresses of avoiding awkward eye-contact are out of our control, we’re afraid. Here we detail the research that can turn up the heat on your progress to a fitter, healthier self.
Abs may be made in the kitchen, but total-body muscle is cooked up in the sauna.
Sports scientists have found that higher temperatures after resistance training can speed your progress in both strength and size. Elevating the temperature of your muscles by 4°C was proven in one study to spike the natural anabolic processes in your muscle tissue. This therefore triggers the release of more testosterone while also speeding up protein synthesis for bigger, stronger muscles – built from the comfort of your pine bench.
Approximately 16 million people have high blood pressure in the UK. And high BP is a leading cause and risk factor in predicting heart problems down the line. If that statistic has you hot under the collar, then escape to the sauna. Finnish researchers (surprise, surprise) found that the heat helps to dilate blood vessels and people who frequent the sauna four times a week can release the pressure valve by 50%. A separate study also revealed that those who frequent saunas are 50% less likely to die from heart issues.
The sauna is where slackers go to hide from the squat rack, right? Well, new science hot off the press has sent this theory up in smoke. Researchers saw athletes cut 1.9% off their 5K times with regular sauna sessions after training. The mechanism behind this boost is that the heat encourages your body to produce a significant amount of natural EPO. This increases the amount of oxygen you can transport to your muscles and therefore run further, faster – no nasty stitch necessary. From the rack to the track, you’ll perform better.
In modern training the brain is equally important to brawn – and the sauna has you covered there, too. Finnish scientists (yes, again) found that using saunas four times a week slashes your dementia risk by an unforgettable 63%. Combining exercise with post-workout heat causes the release of a protein called BDNF, which acts like armour for your brain to both reverse damage and build new neurons. It’s the smartest addition to your training regimen you’ll make this year.
*All Third Space clubs have their own uniquely designed thermal experiences. Our Tower Bridge club’s is an aromatic juniper log glass sauna, featuring; luxurious day beds set against a backdrop of Iroko panelling and experience showers to cool off in.