You rocked your cardio workout and you are sweating from head to toe. Now you want to sweat some more in a sauna? Some people swear by the therapeutic effects of a hot sauna. The heat may relieve aching muscles and sore joints. People with breathing difficulties may also get some relief in a sauna. There are dangers, however, that you should be aware of. See your doctor for a complete check up and talk about the risks and benefits of saunas after your workout.
You're already sweating from a vigorous cardio exercise, so be careful when it comes to sweating some more. You have to stay hydrated. You can lose a lot of water during a workout followed by a hot sauna bath. You're going to lose salts and other minerals through sweating, too. Drink water before, during and after exercise, and make sure to drink some water before and after your sauna. If you don't like the “taste” of water, you can drink flavored waters or sports drinks if plain water doesn't tickle your taste buds. According to MayoClinic.com, you can lose up to 30 grams of fluids by sweating every minute or nearly 1 pint of water every 15 minutes. Don’t let dehydration ruin your sauna experience; be aware of the signs of dehydration, such as feeling dizzy, excessive thirst and a rapid heartbeat.
Elevated Body Temperature
You know how hot you can get during cardio. Your face may get red, and you will be sweating heavily during and after a vigorous cardio workout. If you jump into a hot sauna right after your workout, you risk raising your body temperature to an unsafe level. The high temperature in a sauna can increase your body temperature to the point you feel dizzy, nauseated and fatigued. You can suffer heat stroke or even a heart attack if your body temperature gets too high. Cool down after a cardio workout before getting into a hot sauna.
High Blood Pressure
During and after exercise, your pounding heart and dilated blood vessels increase your blood pressure. Your blood pressure is going to go up a little during exercise anyway, but the heat of the sauna can further increase your pressure. If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor before you exercise or use a sauna, whether you are on medication or not. Only your doctor can tell you if you should avoid a sauna because of your high blood pressure.
Saunas are generally safe provided you follow the rules, especially time limitation, and pay attention to what your body is telling you. Avoid saunas if you have heart disease, uncontrolled high blood pressure, heart failure or an abnormal heart beat. It's not a good idea to have a few cocktails with the girls before you get in the sauna. Alcohol and some medications can prevent your body from sweating, which can cause you to overheat. Don't stay in the sauna for more than 15 to 20 minutes and gradually cool down afterward. Remember to drink water, and stay out of the sauna if you are sick. If you start to feel ill during your sauna bath, leave the sauna and cool down gradually.
Robin Reichert is a certified nutrition consultant, certified personal trainer and professional writer. She has been studying health and fitness issues for more than 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health from Clayton College.