It’s the middle of summer and the heat is starting to take its toll. You can’t walk outside without feeling exhausted by the heat and humidity while your body kicks into overdrive trying to keep you cool. You know the drill. Your pits are stained. You feel sweat accumulating in the small of your back, and you’re just waiting for that inevitable drip down to your butt that makes you want to scream.
Even after being sweat-soaked, you still dream of summer all winter long — the long, bright evenings, days at the lake soaking up some sun on your porch or toes in the sand at the beach. But when it’s finally here, the high temperatures can feel unbearable after a few heat waves and every fan in your house is on full blast to keep you from sticking to your sofa. But what if there was a way to kick-start the acclimation process so hot didn’t feel so …. hot? All it takes is time in the sauna.
Sauna in the summer may seem counterproductive, maybe even a little silly, when you first think about it. Why do you need to spend more time in the heat when it’s already so hot outside and you’re sweating rivers instead of droplets? Hear us out. Time in the sauna can actually help you acclimate to higher summertime temperatures, making you feel more comfortable in the heat.
The body effect
When you’re immersed in a hot environment, your body taps its water reserves from places like the bloodstream, fat, muscles, and kidneys to maintain your normal bodily functions. As your internal temperature continues to rise, your heart pumps faster, bringing blood closer to the skin’s surface. That’s why you may notice your skin turning pink or you start to resemble a tomato when you’re hot. The body’s sweating process kicks into gear as sweat droplets seep through your pores and evaporate off as a cooling mechanism.
Our bodies are amazinggg cooling machines, but in humid areas, the body is less effective at evaporation, since there is already a high water content in the hot and sticky air. As a result, our cooling rate goes down, and our body has a fighting duel to get rid of the heat.
Heat acclimation with sauna
When you feel the urge to escape to the AC or you’re at the point where you’re ready to crawl into the freezer, try doing the opposite and opt for a sauna session instead. You’ll be happy you did.
Practicing heat acclimation with sauna can help your body adapt to hotter temperatures by training its natural response to heat stress. Through consistent sauna sessions, you’ll see a reduction in heart rate, internal body temperature responses, and sweat electrolyte concentrations. It may seem gradual, but with every session you’ll start to see a difference as you build up a tolerance to the heat.
Heat Acclimation Training
If you’re a competitive athlete, sauna time can be especially helpful to prepare for an upcoming event in a hot climate.
In a three-week study, researchers took 26 trained, long distance runners (16 female and 10 male) and had them each perform heat-tolerance and temperature-exercise tests at the beginning and at the end of the three weeks. Participants in the study followed a normal exercise training plan, but they added two to four 30-minute sauna sessions after their workouts each week. With this study, researchers wanted to see if post-exercise sauna bathing could improve the participants’ ability to perform in the heat.
At the end of the three-week study, both male and female athletes performed better in the heat-tolerance test and the temperature-exercise test, supporting the theory that post-exercise sauna bathing is an effective way to enhance performance in both males and females in hot environments.
If you know you have a race or competition coming up and you struggle with optimal performance in the heat, add a few sauna sessions to your weekly routine. You might be surprised at the difference you feel on event day.
Additional Sauna Benefits
Feeling better in the heat of summer is enough of a reason to get excited about sauna time, but there are some other health reasons that may make you want to jump into your swimsuit and add some sweat sessions to your routine.
In the heat of the sauna, skin warms up and your core body temperature rises. As a response to the increased heat, blood vessels near the skin dilate, and heart rate and circulation increases. Research has shown that a person’s heart rate can rise from 60-70 beats per minute to 110-120 beats per minute during a sauna session, keeping the heart healthy and reducing risk of cardiac incidents.
Flush toxins out
You will sweat a lot in the sauna. That’s no shocker. But when you feel those beads of sweat running down your forehead and cheeks, it’s your body’s way of flushing out unwanted toxins. A deep sweat in the sauna can help reduce levels of lead, copper, zinc, and other chemicals that are unfortunately, frequently absorbed when we interact with our daily environments.
Improved brain function
Dr. Jari Laukkanen and colleagues conducted a study at the University of Eastern Finland that included a total of 2,300 participants. This study, which spanned 25 years, revealed that regular sauna use (4-7 times per week) at 176 degrees Fahrenheit for 19 minutes, lowered the risk for both Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Ready for a Sweat Session?
Whether you want to help your body better adapt to the heat, or you’re looking for a way to boost your health, sauna time is a great way to do both. Come visit us at Sauna House, in Asheville, to experience our variety of saunas, including our aspen wood sauna, our dry cedar sauna, and our private infrared sauna.
Looking to install a sauna at home? We can help! Our sales manager, Rory, will work with you to help you choose a sauna option to best fit your needs.