A new study conducted by researchers at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Medical Center Berlin (MCB) have found that the increase in heart rate and blood pressure during a sauna is comparable to that of a moderate workout.
On separate days participants were sent to a sauna and placed on a bicycle ergometer. Both blood pressure levels, and heart rate was measured both during the sauna visit and during exercise, and a rise in both during both conditions were found. The study was recently published in the international journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 19 volunteers were recruited to measure the immediate effects of sauna use on the cardiovascular system: The participants were exposed to a 25-minute sauna session, while having their blood pressure and heart rate measured. Both rose immediately during the sauna visit. After the sauna session, both blood pressure and heart rate began to drop below participant’s baseline levels that were measured before the sauna session.
In the second part of the study, the participants completed a short exercise program on an exercise bike while also having their blood pressure and heart rate assessed. “Comparing the two conditions, the participants’ blood pressure and heart rate reached the same levels during the sauna session as they did with a load of about 100 watts during the exercise test,” says Ketelhut.
The observations made by the researchers are supported by previous studies that focused primarily on the long-term effects of sauna use, demonstrating positive effects on the cardiovascular system, for example. “A sauna session is a physical strain. Its long-term positive effects are similar to sports activities,” explains Ketelhut. Nevertheless, the healthy sweating does not contribute to weight loss: “The effect is too low as there is no muscle activity. Although we lose weight in the sauna, but these are just the fluids that we sweat out. One should rehydrate after a sauna session, though,” concludes Ketelhut.