Eight weeks of regular sauna bathing and exercise was found to be superior to regular exercise alone for the improvement of three major cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in the general population. Specifically, the addition of regular sauna bathing to regular exercise led to further increases in cardiorespiratory fitness, and substantial decreases in systolic blood pressure and total cholesterol levels over regular exercise.
A recent study from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, has now shown that sauna together with exercise is a viable preemptive combination for improving cardiovascular health and lowering the risk of CVD.
The study was performed using a randomized controlled trial (RCT), which is regarded as the "gold standard" for scientific experimental evidence. In addition, this is the first ever RCT conducted in sauna bathing research and lays an important foundation for future studies.
The results of this study lend support for the regular use of sauna bathing with regular exercise, and shows promise as a therapeutic adjunct, particularly for those with lower exercise capacities."
Earric Lee, Doctoral Researcher in the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences
The exercise protocol used for the study adhered to well-established international and national guidelines: 50 minutes of exercise, three times a week. Each session consisted of 20 minutes of resistance exercise, followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. The participants in the exercise and sauna group went for 15 minutes of typical Finnish sauna bathing after the exercise session.
CVD is the major contributor to morbidity and mortality. Annually, it costs the public healthcare system in Finland tremendous amounts of money. "Any approach that has the potential to alleviate the burden, and work alongside other preventative strategies such as exercise is really worth further consideration," Lee points out.
The findings of the present research forms part of the PhD dissertation, and is the final experiment.
Lee, E., et al. (2022) The effects of regular sauna bathing in conjunction with exercise on cardiovascular function: A multi-arm randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. doi.org/10.1152/ajpregu.00076.2022.