Saunas have become increasingly popular, especially to athletes. As you read on, we take a look at sauna benefits for athletes and runners in boosting their endurance training.
Running has many health benefits but it also has many detriments. The impact of a runner’s foot hitting the ground can cause many issues on your joints and muscles.
It's especially hard on the knees and hips. Some recreational runners even have to under go surgery to correct the wear and tear of running.
Certain creams like Penetrex can definitely help relieve sore knees and other body parts but there are other options that can be used as preventative measures.
Therefore, runners must take precautionary measures to ensure that their positive life choice does not become a negative one.
The Scandinavians to the Rescue
One common technique is the use of a sauna. Saunas originated in Finland. They originally featured a fireplace where stones were heated to a high temperature.
Then water was thrown on the stones to produce steam to give a sensation of increased heat.
With modern research, we have discovered that the health benefits of a sauna are numerous. These include reducing stress hormones and lowering blood pressure.
It has also become very common for saunas to be used in conjunction with hydrotherapy. This is due to its abilities to warm the muscles and thus aid in the flexibility of the muscles.
Multiple studies have also shown that sauna use can aid in fighting off various health issues.
These include symptoms of the common cold, chronic fatigue syndrome, lung disease, and heart disease.
Basically the body is sweating profusely it's so it tends to flush out the bad stuff inside the body. Keep in mind that due to high levels of sweating it's important to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
So, How Do Saunas Help Runners Specifically?
Here are some health benefits of a sauna that can help boost your running endurance.
Firstly, breathing in hot air aids in heating up the body temperature. This in turn increases heart rate, sweat production, muscle flexibility and blood flow.
Regularly doing this can improve performance.
Regular exposure to a sauna can result in a 30% increase in time to exhaustion, which would translate to a 2% improvement in time in an actual race.
A study suggests that there is a strong correlation between improved time to exhaustion and an increase in blood volume. These studies were done on subjects that spent at least 20 minutes in a sauna after their run.
Secondly, – the improvement of lung function – research shows that lung capacity and function increase around 10%, which can help you get health benefits of a sauna for long term.
In addition to lung capacity, it also has proven to clear the lungs of buildup. Saunas also aid in chronic bronchitis symptoms due to their abilities to clear the lungs of congestion (helping the lungs breathe easier).
Thirdly, it can help runners who live in cooler climates to run in warmer ones.
Like if your on vacation at the beach where it's hot and humid. Or doing a race in a warmer climate.
Exposing the runner’s body to the heat helps the runner’s body adapt to the temperature change easier.
Possibly the Best Health Benefits of a Sauna?
Next, increased hormone production – studies have shown that active use of a sauna increases growth hormone levels in the blood by 200 – 500%.
Growth hormone have powerful and well-known benefits when it comes to workout recovery and performance levels.
Fifth, endurance boosting abilities.
Hypothermic conditioning (acclimating the body to high temperatures separate to sauna use via physical activity) boost strength as it encourages the body’s adaptations to make performance easier when the temperature of the body is increased.
As the body is exposed to heat stress it slowly acclimatizes itself to the higher temperatures, promoting several changes to arise in the body, which are beneficial.
Blood Flow to the Heart is Key
These key adaptations include an increase in blood flow and the volume of plasma to the major muscles groups as well as the heart (this increases physical endurance).
There is also an increase in bulk (muscle mass) as a result of higher levels of growth hormone and heat-shock proteins (as previously mentioned in this article).
Increased heat-shock proteins aid a hypothermic state condition which increase muscle growth.
One of the mechanisms by which heat stress prevents protein degradation is by triggering heat show proteins, which are used by the cells to counter potentially harmful stimulus.
Whenever a cell is exposed to an unfriendly environment, the DNA separates in certain regions and begins to read the genetic code to produce these heat stress proteins.
Heat-stress proteins are actually really beneficial, helping prevent and repair damaged proteins thus they are essential in a runners training.
Finally, aiding in the recovery of muscle injury – immobilization is common in muscle injury, which can lead to muscle atrophy.
Sauna use has been shown to slow muscle atrophy during recovery times by up to 32%. Whole-body heat treatment both prevents muscle atrophy and increases muscle regrowth also aiding in recovery.
Sauna's Actually Have Multiple Benefits
Though there has been no evidence to support decreased time of the common cold or illness due to sauna usage, it does aid in lung congestion.
It can be useful for those who are just coming out of a cold by clearing up the lungs of congestion.
It helps avoid troubles associated with getting proper amounts of oxygen to the lungs due to congestion. Saunas have been a useful tool since the early 1500's and with new research, we are finding even more health benefits of a sauna.
This it is a recommended and important addition to any runner’s regime.