Should you use the sauna before or after your workout?

by Jacinta Koelewyn on Friday 05 August 2022

3 min read

Sweating it out in a sauna is a popular way to relax and wind down, making it a great addition to your pre or post workout routine. But what’s the connection between saunas and fitness? And should you use a sauna before or after your workout? Read on to find out. 

How using a sauna can benefit your health 

When you think of a sauna, you may think of rest, relaxation and even a couple of cucumber slices perched on your eyes. While they may seem like nothing more than a nice gym perk, saunas offer a range of potential health benefits

For thousands of years, saunas have been used across the world as a therapy. Sitting in a sauna makes your skin temperature rise, boosting your blood flow and circulation. It can even kickstart your body’s sympathetic nervous system – which can reduce pain and give you that blissed out feeling.

Others believe that saunas can help with:

  • Detoxification
  • Weight loss
  • Skin rejuvenation
  • Stress relief
  • Improved sleep, stress management and relaxation
  • Cardiovascular health.  

However, the number one benefit of saunas is that the heat can relax and relieve sore muscles. In other words, it’s the perfect recipe for your workout recovery. Anyone who’s stepped foot in a gym has heard the importance of warming up before a workout. So, does that mean it’s better to use a sauna before exercise? Not quite. While your muscles are sure to feel warm, a sauna doesn’t replace stretching and may lead you to overheat before you’ve even started your workout.

A more commonly held belief is that it’s better to use the sauna after your workout. When you exercise, your muscles are under stress, which is what helps them rebuild and get stronger. While this can be helpful for gains, it also can lead to muscle stiffness or soreness. That’s where saunas can help.

Since the heat helps your blood vessels open and relaxes your muscles, your body is better able to carry oxygen and nutrients to those tired muscles. By using a sauna after your workout, you could reduce muscle soreness by up to 47% just 24 hours post-exercise.

Tips on sauna etiquette

If you’re a sauna newbie, it’s natural to be unsure of what to expect. To make sure you and everyone else gets the most out of their sauna experience, here are some quick tips:

  • Rinse off any dirt so you head into the sauna fresh.
  • Be aware of how much space you take up. If someone new comes in, make sure there’s enough room for everyone to sit comfortably.
  • Don’t go in your ‘birthday suit’. While this may be popular in other places, in a gym, it’s best to sport bathers. Your sweaty gym clothes and shoes are also a big no-no.
  • Don’t bring electronics – these won’t do well in the heat and humidity!
  • Be quiet. Saunas are meant to be a relaxing environment, so try not to be too loud.
  • Try to be as quick as possible, so others can use the gym sauna. We recommend sticking to no more than 20 minutes.
  • Don’t work out in the sauna. (Yes, we know this may be an obvious one, but it’s not the place to pump iron or get some squats in!) 
  • Use your sauna session for some mindful meditation. Not sure how? Explore our guide to meditation

Take your workouts to the next level

At Virgin Active, we have hundreds of group classes from Body Combat through to Pilates Reformer. We also have a range of exclusive rest and recovery facilities, such as our pool, spa and sauna. To experience what our world-class gyms have to offer, book in a no-obligation tour. We’d love to show you around!

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