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Sauna For Athletes

Sauna For Athletes

Sauna for Athletes

By Abigail Mote  (co-founder Burn Saunas)

 From amateur athlete to pro- athlete the sauna could be key to pushing past plateaus. Sauna protocol is a very important to recovery and muscle growth especially as we age. This is perfectly exemplified in the findings of a study conducted with 28 amateur male athletes; as well as, complimented by research on Human Growth Hormone production and resiliency to heat stress. Stress on the body can be good stress (Hormetic stress), like cold water immersion (a.k.a cold plunging) or with heat, which causes adaptation to occur and boosts stem cells. Stress can also be inflammation causing keeping the body in flight or fight response (sympathetic nervous system). Sauna not only is good stress, but its very relaxing mentally and physically.  

One study, “Passive Whole- body Hyperthermia Increases Aerobic Capacity and Cardio Respiratory Efficiency in Amateur Athletes” published in Health journal reported analysis after a ten week course. In this analysis of taking 28 amateur athletes into sauna, protocols led to increase of peak oxygen consumption, oxygen consumption at the level of anaerobic threshold, and heart efficiency (enhancement of oxygen pulse values); as well as efficiency of pulmonary ventilation and bronchial conductance (Zapara et al. 2020). Which the study considered to be cross effects of adaptation to passive whole body repetitive hyperthermia (Zapara et al. 2020). So, these athletes were not only using oxygen more efficiently at a cellular level, but their heart was more resilient to fatigue associated with exercise. The effects sauna has on heart health can be found in my other blog post linked here Cardiovascular Disease & Sauna

Additionally to combat aging, heat stress promotes resiliency. FOXO3 proteins make a complex with Sirtuin 1 to help our cells better resist heat stress and become more resilient. Prior studies have shown that “FoxO3a functions as a tumor suppressor by regulating expression of genes involved in apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, oxidative stress resistance and autophagy” (Nho, 2014). In general, FoxO3a is known to suppress cell cycle progression, promote cell death and thought to be an important target to inhibit cancer cell progression. Recent studies have discovered other functions of FoxO3a, such as stress response and longevity (Nho 2014). Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1), an “enzyme associated with the longevity due to its influence with controlling the release of insulin, ensuring that lipids are working correctly, responding to stressful stimuli, and modulating lifespan in multiple species” (Hill 2023). My article on sauna and the metabolism can be read here Metabolic Benefits of Sauna. Both of these biological responses fine tune the body to be more efficient. 

Efficiency is crucial to athletic performance, protocols are followed to achieve specific results. There are protocols specific to boosting human growth hormone with sauna, including the nordic cycle for athletic recovery. Studies have shown that saunas will not have a significant impact on HGH production in the 50 and up age group unless stringent protocols are followed. Rhonda Patrick talks about these protocols and studies in her youtube video “How To Increase Athletic Endurance and Muscle Mass through Sauna” link Hyperthermic Conditioning stating studies that have shown sauna use can increase muscle regrowth by 30%. Increasing muscle growth by thirty percent goes a long way in hypertrophy, recovery and in fighting age related atrophy. In part, this is due to heat shock proteins.  Stress or “shock” on the body causes the body to send stress signals to your pituitary gland, which in turn will increase hormone release including human growth hormone (HGH) (Pengelly 2023).This hormone declines as we age and is essentially the aging process. So for any athlete young or old, amateur or professional sauna is a key factor for maximizing training results, recovery and longevity in sport.  


Works Cited

Hill, Steve. “Sauna Use May Increase Longevity.” Lifespanio, Lifespan Extension Advocacy Foundation, 30 May 2023,

Patrick, Rhonda. Youtube Link

Pengelly, Adrian. The Science of Sauna. Adrian Pengelly, 2023.

Nho RS, Hergert P. FoxO3a and disease progression. World J Biol Chem. 2014 Aug 26;5(3):346-54. doi: 10.4331/wjbc.v5.i3.346. PMID: 25225602; PMCID: PMC4160528.

Zapara, M. , Dudnik, E. , Samartseva, V. , Kryzhanovskaya, S. , Susta, D. and Glazachev, O. (2020) Passive Whole-Body Hyperthermia Increases Aerobic Capacity and Cardio-Respiratory Efficiency in Amateur Athletes. Health, 12, 14-26. doi: 10.4236/health.2020.121002.