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It certainly feels good, but does it help at all with muscle relaxation and recovery?

Or there any dangers with over heating a worked muscle?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There definitely is a danger of overheating but that's really inherit with saunas in general. You can avoid that by waiting some time between your workout and going into the sauna. In between you can take a cold shower/bath to cool off further.

As for muscle recovery, there are a lot of methods different people employ. Most of it has to do with cold rather than heat such as:

According to the wikipedia article sauna followed by cold exposure produced the best results.

Overall I think there isn't clear science specifically dealing with the sauna and muscle recovery. At the end of the day, if it makes you feel better you will probably enjoy your training more and get better results in the long run.

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At first I thought you were insane suggesting a cold shower, but I have just tried it and I do feel much better for it. Thanks. –  Mongus Pong Sep 30 '11 at 13:04

I've done body building several times in my life. I have never used a sauna before moving to Germany some 4 years ago. (I'm 44.) I had only used sauna here in Germany (where saunas are VERY popular) at "spa hotels" and loved them. Recently, however, I joined a gym, and have used the sauna after each workout. Although I am training to the max, I have never experienced the muscle soreness I am so familiar with after using the sauna post-workout - even when just starting the training program. Not really sure how it works, but others advised me to try it, and it works amazingly well.

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I should add though, that after a workout, the normal sauna protocol is apparently not recommended. Normally, I would go 3 times through the sauna with a cold dip or rinse after each time. I was told though, that after a workout, just one time with a regular warm shower afterward is best. I have found that to be goo. Before I had this advice, I was trying to do the repeated saunas, but couldn't get past 2 times in the sauna. Then when I was talking with a man in the sauna after about my 3 or 4 workout, he explained the different procedure, and I have had great success with it. –  Diana Davenport Aug 29 '12 at 5:51
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Hi Diana, instead of adding a comment you can always edit and update your original answer. –  Matt Chan Aug 29 '12 at 11:07

In my experience, the most dangerous things about saunas are dehydration and dizziness/fainting. I've read that saunas can cause an increase in blood pressure and coughing (because it loosens phlegm). So, if you are prone to dizziness, have high blood pressure/other cardiovascular issues, or asthma it's probably best to avoid saunas. I'm sure there are other dangers too that I'm not aware of so don't take this as an exhaustive list. But in my experience as long as I hydrate well, don't get up too quickly, and step out after 15-20 minutes I'm usually fine. I've never heard of a sauna being bad for your muscles.

As for benefits, it's obviously relaxing. According to the site I linked to, saunas "enhance the oxygen and nutrient supply to muscles and deep tissue, relieving tired, achy muscles." It's kind of the same idea as using a heating pad to treat a pulled muscle. The NY Times quotes some research suggesting that saunas may relieve cold and flu symptoms by promoting drainage as well.

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There are no 'toxins' in sweat. –  mike Sep 29 '11 at 21:04
    
Fair enough, it seems like that is a widely misused phrase. What it may actually mean is that when you sweat a lot and then rehydrate, you are "flushing" your system? –  Lauren Sep 30 '11 at 3:07

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