Sauna bathing offers cardioprotective benefits
Sauna bathing for 30 minutes confers benefits for arterial stiffness, blood pressure and some blood-based biomarkers, a study has shown.
A total of 102 participants (mean age 51.9 years; 56 percent male) with at least one cardiovascular risk factor were exposed to a single sauna session (duration, 30 minutes; temperature, 73 °C; humidity, 10–20 percent). Cardiovascular and blood-based parameters were assessed at three timepoints: prior to and immediately after the session, and after 30-min recovery.
Immediately after sauna exposure, there were decreases observed in mean carotid–femoral pulse wave velocity (from 9.8 m/s at baseline to 8.6 m/s; p<0.0001) and in mean systolic (from 137 to 130 mm Hg; p<0.0001) and diastolic blood pressure (from 82 to 75 mm Hg; p<0.0001). Systolic blood pressure after 30-minute recovery remained lower relative to baseline levels.
Substantial changes in haematological variables were also observed during sauna bathing. Specifically, plasma creatinine levels increased marginally from sauna until recovery period, whereas sodium and potassium levels remained stable.
The present data suggest that hot sauna bathing produces changes in cardiovascular function, which include improvements in arterial stiffness and reductions in blood pressure, researchers said. Enhanced arterial stiffness potentially explains the link between heat exposure and positive changes in vascular function.
Researchers pointed out, however, that the observed positive effects on vascular function in the current study were based on traditional hot and dry Finnish sauna bathing, which is not comparable to saunas operating at lower temperatures and heated water immersion. [J Appl Physiol 2016;121:716-723; J Physiol 2016;594:5329-5342; JAMA Intern Med 2015;175:548]
Additional research is warranted to establish the potential midterm and longer-term effects of sauna bathing on cardiovascular adaptation, they added.