Does regular sauna use provide health benefits?

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This audio clip is from AMA #16: Exploring hot and cold therapy, originally released on October 12, 2020.


Show Notes

Possible mechanisms conferring the longevity benefits of sauna, and how it compares to exercise [1:02:15]

Overall, the data is robust in support of heat therapy in the following manner

  • Dry sauna
  • 20 minutes or more each session
  • Four times a week or more
  • At about 170 degrees Fahrenheit/80 degrees Celsius

Possible mechanisms conferring benefit:

Mimics exercise—

  • This type of sauna activity seems to mimic cardiovascular exercise
  • E.g., Heart rate gets up to 150 beats per minute in a sauna

What about other things such as growth hormone and heat shock proteins?

  • There are increased growth hormone levels
  • Increased prolactin
  • Increased cortisol, 
  • And other hormones likely increase: norepinephrine, renin activity, white blood cell count, and heat shock proteins

Theoretical experiment

  • Randomize people to four hours a week of sauna under these above listed conditions
  • Match them with another group that does four hours a week of exercise at the same heart rate as in the sauna conditions
  • And have a third group do neither (control group)
  • Follow them for 20 years

What would Peter and Bob predict the outcome to be?

  • Bob: “I think that you would see a lot of similarities in the outcome
  • Peter thinks an experiment like this could be done in animals and would predict both the sauna group and exercise group would do significantly better
  • Peter: “But is there a difference between those two? That’s the question that’s interesting.”
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