More than just a warm room, there’s nothing quite like the experience of a sauna. The crackling stove against those rustic, wooden walls - plus that unmistakable aroma - create a surreal and invigorating experience.
It’s an ancient experience too. A form of sauna was used by the Mayans of Central America as far back as 3,000 years ago. Finnish for ‘bath house’, the sauna - as we know it today - was invented a thousand years later.
Alongside swimming, saunas can play a crucial part in the physical stage of wellness that we need to stay healthy. But, besides its relaxation and detoxifying benefits, did you know that taking a sauna is actually a cardiovascular workout?
What is a cardiovascular workout?
The definition of a cardiovascular workout is when your heart rate is elevated to reach the cardio zone. Normally, when doing cardiovascular exercise - such as going for a run - you have to move consistently for 9-12 minutes without rest. This will get your heart into the zone.
Can you actually workout without moving?
Strangely enough, you can. Whilst in the sauna, it's possible for you to achieve a passive cardiovascular workout. In effect, this is exercising by doing nothing.
It doesn’t take long either. You should feel the effects of a passive cardiovascular workout after 5 minutes of being in the sauna. Basically, you’ll half the time it usually takes to get into the cardio zone - without moving a muscle.
For it to work, the heat - and the environment in general - must be right. Cabins that are too big won’t allow the heat to circulate, rising to the top. And be careful, too much humidity will also cause a problem.
5 steps to the perfect cardiovascular workout in the sauna
Take a hot shower: doing this before you get into the sauna will, gently, prepare your body for higher temperatures. However, you should make sure that you’re completely dry before entering the cabin. Remove any jewellery and, most importantly, make sure you’re well hydrated.
Watch the heat: the perfect sauna should be hot - without being humid. So, it’s important not to throw water at the rocks. This creates an imbalance between the humidity and heat, making you feel nauseous. What’s more, the low humidity of the sauna helps your perspiration evaporate quickly, ensuring your skin doesn’t overheat, which is uncomfortable – when this happens you tend to endure the process, or exit the sauna too soon to achieve the result.
Lay down on a towel: this can make a big difference to your sauna experience. It ensures that your whole body is the same temperature, making you feel better. Importantly, it’s also easier on your heart; your blood will circulate with less effort to get from your head to your feet.
Stay calm and relax: you can do this by focussing on your breathing. Warm up for 5 - 8 minutes and, for the last two minutes, sit upright with your feet below your waist. This will allow the blood to circulate and get used to the position. After this, leave the sauna slowly to avoid any dizziness.
Cool down properly: wait two minutes and then get into an ice bath, or take a cold shower (a warm shower is OK too). If showering, aim the water at your feet first. Then move the flow slowly up and down your body. Make sure your head isn’t the first area to be hit by the water as this will disturb your circulation.
After this, feel free to enter the sauna again for a further 10 minutes and shower. However, it’s important to lie down and relax for another 10 minutes afterwards. This will allow the body to settle, and your blood pressure to return to normal.
Try and replace the liquids you’ve lost immediately; it’s not uncommon to lose a pint of sweat whilst in the sauna. Besides water, herbal teas and fruit juices are best. These will help to replenish any natural minerals and electrolytes you may have lost.
Using only natural materials, the state-of-the-art facilities at Natural Fit have been provided by Effegibi: the market leader in saunas, Turkish baths and spas.