Saunas and steam rooms have long been a part of wellness routines across the globe. Incorporating them into your schedule is a no-brainer, but how often and for how long should you use a traditional sauna?
You should go to the traditional dry sauna 3 times per week and stay for 15 minutes/session to achieve benefits like increased metabolism, improved blood circulation, and 25% lower cortisol levels. As a beginner, start with 5 minute-sessions and never exceed 20 minutes due to the risk of dehydration and other health complications.
Continue reading to determine how frequently and for how long you should use a traditional sauna, best practices for beginners, and the potential benefits of using a sauna regularly!
How long should you use a traditional dry sauna (session time)?
Traditional dry saunas boast some of the hottest temperatures of any sauna type. Because of this, it’s important to spend the appropriate amount of time inside.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you spend no more than 10 minutes per session inside a traditional sauna of around 165 °F. If you’re more experienced and the temperature is lower, you can spend up to 20 minutes inside. Overall, this averages to about 15 minutes.
These numbers depend heavily on if your body is used to saunas and the internal climate of the room. It’s vital to hydrate appropriately, consult your doctor first if you have preexisting conditions, and always listen to your body.
The best dry sauna session time for beginners
It’s best to start slow if you’re a beginner.
For novices, the general rule of thumb is to start with 5 minutes inside of a dry sauna. Due to the systemic inflammation excessive heat exposure causes the body, it’s advised that inexperienced users err on the side of caution.
One study out of the American Journal of Medicine states that improper traditional sauna use can result in atopic dermatitis, hypotension, arrhythmia, and in extreme cases- sudden death.
Your body will get more accustomed to high temperatures as your sauna visits become more frequent.
Incorporating something new into your regimen takes time, so set yourself up for success by gradually increasing the time you spend inside!
The best dry sauna session time after exercise
Post-workout sauna sessions can not only trick your body into thinking your workout was longer (hello, extra calorie burning), but they can also help with muscle recovery. What’s the best way to use a sauna with your fitness routine?
After exercise, it is recommended to wait around 10 minutes before stepping into a traditional dry sauna for around 10 minutes. That way, your cardiovascular and respiratory systems have time to recover. Thus, the risk of heatstroke and dizziness is reduced.
A 2010 study that observed the lipid profile of blood serum in women, documented an increase in the concentration of hormones such as ACTH, cortisol, and hGH after sauna baths.
While the long-term benefits of exercise and sauna sessions are good, the acute after-impacts elicit a stress response from our bodies. For this reason, it’s important to take a small break between the two so as not to shock our physiological systems.
Maximum dry sauna session time
So, you’re a sauna pro now. What’s the absolute greatest amount of time you can spend inside safely?
The maximum traditional sauna session time is around 20 minutes due to the intense, dry atmosphere.
Any longer dramatically increases your chances of what a 2005 study refers to as “sweat lodge syndrome.” This is otherwise known as the undesirable effects of improper sauna use (i.e., dehydration, loss of consciousness, and health complications).
Furthermore, some sauna manufacturers say you can spend as much time inside as desired- but only if you feel comfortable. Because that’s difficult for some people to determine, cap your usage at 20 minutes to prioritize safety.
How long should a sauna session be to get all the benefits?
We’ve discussed the maximum and general recommended times to spend inside a traditional sauna, depending on your level of experience. However, what’s the best practice for reaping all the benefits?
A dry sauna session should last at least 10 minutes at least 150 °F in order for you to experience the most benefits. While beginners should start at 5 minutes/session, the goal is to eventually work your way up to 10 minutes, then 15.
According to a 2018 study from the American Journal of Physiology, regular traditional sauna bathing leads to reduced blood pressure, increased relaxation, more sweating and toxic fluid loss, reduced arterial stiffness, and improved overall endothelial function.
Other documented improved health outcomes include a lowered incidence of respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.
How long should you sit in a sauna to lose weight?
Desired weight loss is a common reason people turn to dry sauna sessions. So, how long do you need to spend inside the heater before seeing results?
It’s estimated that losing weight requires 15 minutes of sauna exposure. That is plenty of time to stimulate a stress reaction from your body and induce a metabolic response.
A peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association article discovered that sauna sessions could burn up to 600 calories per 15-minute session. Overall, a person can expect to burn about 50% more calories in the sauna than they would while at rest.
Keep in mind that while your metabolism is stimulated, the initial change on the scale is likely water weight-related.
How long should you sit in a sauna to detox?
One of the main benefits of sauna visits is the ability they give your body to detox harmful waste. How long does it take for this process to happen?
The way your body detoxes is through sweating. On average, if hydrated properly, it takes about 8 minutes for someone to begin sweating in a traditional sauna. In order to properly detox, spend 15 minutes inside.
This enables your body to release lactic acid from your muscles and purify your blood of harmful substances like:
- Elevated levels of ammonia and urea (detoxification breakdown products) in the blood.
- Increased concentration of norepinephrine (a neurotransmitter that is released during stress) and cortisol.
How often should you use a traditional dry sauna?
Now that we know how long you should spend inside of a traditional sauna, how often should you do sessions?
It is recommended that the average person visit a dry sauna between 1 and 3 times per week for safety and optimal benefits.
Any more can induce too much stress on your body, and any less won’t create tangible results.
How often do you need to sauna to get the benefits?
While 1 sauna session per week is a generally acceptable amount, is it enough to achieve the benefits you’re looking for?
The short answer is not really. To achieve benefits like muscle recovery, detoxification, and improved athletic performance, visit the sauna 3 times per week.
In this case, consistency is key. It’s what will help you see results more quickly.
How often should you use a sauna for weight loss?
What about the best schedule for weight loss?
To use a traditional sauna for weight loss, as with the other benefits mentioned above, you should aim to do a session 3x per week.
A 2016 study that followed the dietary and fitness routines of 58 adults highlighted the importance of switching up your fitness routine to avoid a weight loss plateau. This also applies to your sauna routine.
If your body gets too used to the sauna, it will adapt, and your metabolism will slow. That’s why three is the magic number- it exposes your body to stress, but not so often that it allows for adaptation. Try going on different days of the week to keep your biological systems guessing!
Can you use the sauna every day?
What if you just enjoy the heat? Can you use the sauna daily?
You can use the sauna every day, although it’s not advised for optimal benefits, as discussed in the research above. If you simply enjoy the endorphin release, limit your sessions to 5 minutes each.
This schedule will reduce the risk of dehydration and other adverse effects.
Potential benefits of using a sauna regularly
We’ve mentioned a few of the possible benefits of a structured sauna routine above, but let’s get granular.
The biggest potential benefits of a regular sauna schedule are:
- Improved quality of sleep
- Increased blood circulation
- Better stress management
- Pain reduction and quicker healing
- Increased metabolic activity
- Skin rejuvenation
Each of these benefits will be discussed in more detail below.
Improved Quality of Sleep
One of the most touted benefits of sauna use is its ability to help you get a better night’s sleep.
The heat relaxes your mind and enables your body to enter into REM sleep. A 2018 study stated that an adopted sauna routine increases a person’s nighttime sleep average from 5.8 hours to 7.6 hours.
Not bad for a 15-minute session!
Increased Blood Circulation
As discussed briefly above, using a dry sauna increases blood flow throughout your body.
The expansion in blood circulation has many positive impacts on your health. It enables your organs to function more optimally and any wounds or injuries to heal more quickly.
Additionally, it promotes healthy skin by getting the reticular and papillary layers of the dermis the blood supply they need to promote skin-cell turnover.
Better Stress Management
Stress is one part mental burden and two parts physical effect on our bodies.
When our body enters into “fight or flight mode,” our bloodstream is inundated with cortisol (the primary stress hormone). While cortisol levels usually spike during sauna use, afterward, these levels drop by around 25%.
Low-stress levels are essential to meet weight loss goals, achieve balanced hormones, and overall maintain a healthy equilibrium.
Pain Reduction and Quicker Healing
While the benefit of pain reduction is only directly related to sports injuries or other acute discomforts, quicker healing can have a positive “domino effect” on your body.
Research has shown that heat therapy can help connective tissues repair faster, resulting in faster muscle regeneration after intense exercise.
This is a critical part of building muscle and seeing faster results in the gym.
You sweat a lot during sauna use. It’s one of the primary goals!
Dangerous toxins like heavy metals and bisphenol A (BPA) can accumulate in our body’s fat stores or bloodstream. Our sweat glands are able to expel these toxins during sauna exposure.
Too much of a build-up can cause severe damage to our physiological well-being and, in a worst-case scenario, even result in cancer.
Increased Metabolic Activity
As was discussed above, a dry sauna is able to increase your metabolism and result in greater weight loss results.
This is especially true if you pair your sauna sessions with fitness. Entering into the sauna post exercising will trick your body into thinking your workout is continuing and will prolong fat-burning.
The benefits saunas provide for your skin health are seldom mentioned but are just as important as the internal advantages heat therapy provides to your body!
Traditional saunas help promote skin rejuvenation by detoxifying your pores, reducing inflammation, and promoting collagen production and skin cell turnover. Additionally, hot and humid environments increase dermal layer blood flow and allow for better absorption of skincare products.
According to a 2017 study from the European Journal of Epidemiology, continuous sauna exposure is linked to reducing inflammation that causes acute and chronic disease. Traditional saunas, in particular, reduce oxidative stress. This improves the appearance of your skin.
So, now you know the ins and outs of traditional sauna bathing. The next step is to start your new routine!
If you’re a beginner, we recommend starting with 5 minute-sessions and gradually increasing them up to 15 minutes per session as your body adjusts to this new form of wellness. You should never exceed 20 minutes in total due to health risks such as dehydration or rapid heart rate (which can lead to cardiac arrest).