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Sauna Before or After Exercise: The Best Time to Sauna

Sauna before or after workout

There is a heated debate about saunas – should you sauna before or after your workout? You’ve probably heard of the many benefits of using an infrared sauna, but you’re not sure of the best timing. Some people swear by sauna use before a workout, believing that it helps to warm up their muscles and prepare them for the exercise ahead. Others think saunas should be used after the workout due to its potential benefits in aiding recovery. In this article, we’re going to explore whether you should an infrared sauna before or after your workout, and we’ll give you all the information you need to make an informed decision. So grab a towel and a bottle of water, and let’s dive in.


Using a Sauna Before a Workout


Although the infrared sauna is typically used to wind down and relax post-workout, some experts suggest spending time in the heat locker before your workout. It can get your heart pumping and relieve some muscle aches. They also believe that a post-workout sauna session can interfere with muscle recovery.

Other research has also demonstrated that runners can increase blood flow and improve their performance by taking a few minutes to relax in the sauna before exercising. This process can also help deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, making them more efficient during the workout. Heat therapy in the sauna can also raise your heart rate and elevate body temperature, creating a stimulating sensation similar to that of exercise.


Key Benefits of Using Sauna Before Workout


  • Increases heart rate and body temperature, simulating the effects of exercise.
  • Improves blood circulation, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, making them more efficient during the workout.
  • Loosens up the muscles and reduces the risk of injury.
  • Increases flexibility, making it easier to perform movements that require a full range of motion.

Drawbacks of Using a Sauna Before Exercising


  • Causes dehydration, affecting performance and increasing the risk of cramps.
  • Increases fatigue, making it harder to sustain a high-intensity workout.

Although I don’t often use my infrared sauna before working out, when I do, it helps me get in the right headspace, feel more energized, and boosts my concentration on what lies ahead (especially early mornings when I’m not quite ready to move). Just be sure to stay hydrated, and don’t forget to limber up and stretch before your workout. I also don’t spend too much time in the sauna (usually 5-10 minutes) and time it with easy- to moderate-intensity workout days.

Using a sauna before a workout may not be appropriate for everyone, especially those with certain medical conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure. It is always important to consult with a healthcare professional before using a sauna, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.


Using a Sauna After a Workout

For many, the ideal way to wrap up a workout session is with an infrared sauna. This makes total sense since an exhausted mind (and body) yearns for relaxation, and the intense heat of a sauna can provide this instantly. There’s also growing evidence that post-workout sauna sessions are more beneficial for recovery than using a sauna before your workout.

Sauna use after a workout can help reduce muscle soreness, inflammation, and fatigue. Heat therapy can also improve overall circulation, helping to flush out lactic acid and other waste products that accumulate during exercise. Additionally, the sauna can help to reduce stiffness in the muscles and joints after a workout, allowing you to recover faster and get back into your routine sooner. Finally, time spent in a sauna is especially beneficial for relaxation as well as mental focus, which helps your body process


Key Benefits of Using Sauna After Workout


Promotes Muscle Recovery

One of the greatest benefits of using an infrared sauna post-workout is its ability to speed up muscle recovery. The heat from the sauna works by intensifying circulation, pumping oxygen and essential nutrients throughout your body which helps those exercise-ravaged muscles recover quickly so you can get back into the game.  

Studies demonstrate that sauna and heat therapies may be beneficial in increasing muscle growth. This is due to their ability to raise the production of Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs). These proteins not only assist with protein synthesis, stimulating new cell development; they also decrease protein breakdown, activating numerous other pathways for enhanced muscle building.

Furthermore, the penetrating infrared heat also helps the neuromuscular system to recover quickly after extreme endurance activities.


Increase Endurance and Performance

For runners, cyclists, and other endurance athletes, infrared sauna use after a workout can help improve their ability to sustain maximum performance levels over long periods of time. An intriguing study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport discovered that male distance runners who repeated sauna use after each workout had a 32% increase in running time until exhaustion compared to those who did not.

Overall, they found that sauna bathing increased plasma volume by 7.1% and red blood cell volume by a noteworthy 3.5%. The increased plasma and red blood cells from sauna bathing helped improve endurance in athletes by increasing their oxygen-carrying capacity. Elevated plasma volumes also improve blood circulation to the skin, allowing the body to reach and stay at its ideal temperature during exercise.

A more recent study also showed that post-exercise sauna bathing on average improved time to exhaustion by 12% and VO2 max by  8%. VO2 max is a great indicator of overall aerobic fitness, as it measures the amount of oxygen your body can take in and utilize during exercise.


Boosts Heart Health

Heat therapies like infrared sauna use may also help to improve cardiovascular health. Research shows that using a sauna post-workout can help lower your risk for certain heart diseases and stroke by improving circulation, increasing oxygenation of tissues, and decreasing inflammation throughout the body.

In a recent study, the researchers observed that adding fifteen minutes of post-workout sauna to one’s routine three times per week for eight weeks had even more advantages compared to just exercising alone. The individuals who combined exercise with sauna use had more remarkable progressions in maximal oxygen consumption as well as greater reductions in systolic blood pressure and cholesterol compared to those that exercised without using a sauna.


Remove Toxins

When the temperature rises, blood vessels naturally expand to maximize circulation and efficient removal of metabolic waste and toxins from muscles – including lactic acid buildup. As athletes push themselves to the limit, their muscles generate lactic acid that accumulates with increased activity. This can result in considerable soreness for those who maintain an intense training schedule.

In addition, regular sauna bathing may also help flush out harmful toxins from our bodies that we have become exposed to in our everyday lives, allowing for more efficient oxygen and nutrient delivery to recovering muscles.


You Get a Prolonged Workout

Not only does the intensity of heat in a sauna keep your body warm, but it also acts as an effective and low-impact way to increase heart rate. In other words, by using a sauna after completing physical activity, you are continuing your workout while still allowing time for necessary rest. Bonus.


More Hydration and a Better Overall Workout

By using that sauna after a workout, as opposed to before, you are getting in a more quality workout because you’re more hydrated and not so depleted. Dehydration can tire you out and make it harder for you to train well. To ensure you’re getting the most out of your workout, it’s best to wait and give yourself an infrared sauna treatment after completing major exercises like weightlifting or box jumps. This way, you can rest assured that your efforts have been maximized. In general, if you sauna before working out, you’ll need to keep it on the down low.


Drawbacks of Using a Sauna After Exercising

However, using a sauna after a workout can also have some downsides:

  • Increases the risk of dehydration, especially if the person is already dehydrated from the workout.
  • Causes dizziness or lightheadedness, which can be dangerous if the person is not careful.

So, Should We Sauna Before or After Exercise?

Personally, I prefer using my infrared sauna after a workout as it helps me relax and recover faster. I feel less sore and stiff the next day, which allows me to perform better during the next workout. Using a sauna after a workout also helps me unwind and clear my mind, which is essential for mental recovery. For added recovery boost, I also like to dry brush just before I go in the sauna. Dry brushing can help with lymphatic flow and circulation, which helps move along the lactic acid and other waste products. You can also try combining your sauna session with a cold plunge routine for a little extra. 

As with any exercise or recovery regime, it all depends on your goals. If you are doing a light yoga workout or want to ease into a morning workout with some heat, saunaing before your workout might be what you’re looking for. However, if you need to really push yourself and get the most out of your exercise session, then saunaing after can be a great way to maximize results. Ultimately, it is important to listen to your body and determine what works best for you. Try different approaches and discover what fits your routine best. The combination of infrared sauna use and exercise can be an incredibly effective way to achieve your fitness goals. Give it a try and see what works best for you.

Related articles: Sauna Time and Temperature: How Hot and How Long Should a Sauna Session Be? and How Long to See Benefits of Infrared Sauna?