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Dr. Matt French

More Than Sweating and Shivering

Research shows that sauna bathing may be able to help lower your risk of heart disease. The heat can raise your skin temperature and cause heavy sweating — just a short time in the sauna can produce a pint of sweat. As your body attempts to keep cool, your heart rate increases and may reach over 100 beats per minute. Sauna bathing (and an increased heart rate) causes your blood vessels to open, increases circulation and reduces stress levels — like the effects of low or moderate exercise. As a result, sitting in a sauna also benefits:

Blood Pressure

Evidence over the past few decades shows that sauna bathing has an immediate positive effect on blood pressure.

Total Cholesterol

High blood cholesterol — a waxy substance in your cells — is a major risk factor for heart disease. Lowering your total blood cholesterol by 10% can decrease your risk of heart disease by 30%. The good news is that sweating can raise your good cholesterol levels (HDL) to improve your total cholesterol. Exercise will certainly help you work up a sweat, and sauna bathing on its own can also reduce total cholesterol levels. But combining the two — sitting in a sauna after your workout — has a more significant effect on total cholesterol.

Cardiovascular Respiratory Fitness Level

Cardiovascular respiratory fitness (CRF) is your body’s ability to deliver oxygen to your muscles and organs during physical activity. A higher CRF level can decrease your risk of heart disease and death. Regular exercise is an obvious way to improve CRF levels. But whether your CRF levels are high or low, research shows that sauna bathing following exercise is beneficial.

Risk of Death from Heart-Related Disease

Heart disease causes one out of every five deaths in the United States. And sudden cardiac death (SCD) often has no warning signs. Research shows that sauna bathing may be able to help lower your risk of heart disease. One study followed 2,300 sauna bathers for 20 years and found that the participants who visited the sauna more frequently (four to seven times a week) had 27-50% lower death rates from heart disease and stroke and were 40% less likely to die from any cause.

Can a Cold Plunge Help with Weight Loss?

The vast majority of people who take a cold plunge know that cold therapy is good for recovery but may not know the bonus for fat loss or body composition. There is growing evidence that a regular cold plunge, or even daily cold showers, can promote weight loss through an interesting mechanism relating to brown fat production. Exposing the body to the cold can increase metabolism and burn fat. Cold exposure increases thermogenesis preventing drops in metabolism which is common following weight loss from dieting. 

This activation of brown fat upon cold exposure may also have positive implications for those with insulin resistance and diet induced obesity. When you hop in the cold water, the production of norepinephrine in the brain, while having the benefit of boosting mental health and mood, may also be responsible for regulating metabolism and helping to improve glucose and insulin sensitivity, increase fat utilisation, and protect against diet-induced obesity. 

There is much evidence about the multitude of benefits of ice baths and whether you are using ice baths primarily for exercise recovery or for mood and resilience effects, you can now add fat loss to the list of reasons to use cold therapy regularly. We’d love to introduce you to all these benefits which are available at our Recovery Studio. Grab a friend and schedule your Recovery Studio session today!

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