I Used a Sauna Every Day for 2 Weeks. Here’s What Happened to My Body
Among other benefits, regular sauna use can help relax muscles, improve blood flow, and bolster skin health.
The recommended length of time to spend in a sauna is 15-20 minutes. First-timers should start with 5-10 minutes.
People with certain health conditions should not use a sauna. If you're not sure if that's you after reading this article, consult with a healthcare provider.
Saunas have been around for thousands of years, and today's celebrities still tout them as health and wellness essentials for everything from muscle recovery and stress relief to improved lung function and better sleep.
Lady Gaga, for example, has shared that she uses an infrared sauna every day to alleviate bone inflammation from a hip injury she suffered years ago. Actor Chris Hemsworth and former professional soccer player David Beckham have also been vocal about using a sauna for the alleged health benefits they provide.
Since I’ve heard about so many positive experiences from sauna users, I wanted to try one myself. Because my gym in St. Louis, Missouri, has a sauna that's available for all members to use, I was able to regularly access the facility to document how repeated sauna use did—or didn't—impact my physical and mental health.
I also wanted to incorporate a sauna session into my daily routine because I put my body through a lot of stress and strain through weightlifting, running, stair climbing, and hiking.
Here are the top things I noticed after using my gym’s sauna for 15 minutes every day for two weeks.
I Was Less Sore After My Workouts
After using the sauna consistently for two weeks following a workout, I noticed that overall, my muscles didn’t feel as heavy and sore as they normally would feel post-exercise. For example, after upper body workouts, I generally feel some type of tightness and soreness in my triceps and chest the following day. However, when I used the sauna after completing the same workout but with heavier weights, I didn’t have that muscular fatigue.
I also noticed my usual recovery regimen wasn't as necessary. Typically, I use a massage gun and a muscle roller stick to alleviate muscle soreness, tightness, and tension after a workout. During my two weeks of sauna use, I didn’t find myself needing any of those tools.
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According to Medhat Mikhael, MD, pain management specialist and medical director of the non-operative program at the Spine Health Center at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, when people use a sauna, blood vessels tend to relax and dilate. When this happens, blood flow increases to muscles, joints, and other organs, which speeds recovery and helps to alleviate soreness.
"Relaxation causes a lot of relief to muscle soreness. The dry heat from the sauna is especially beneficial to patients with chronic pain or those who suffer from arthritis and inflammatory diseases," Mikhael told Verywell.
My Skin Was Softer and Clearer
During colder months, my skin tends to get extremely dry, especially the areas around my face, neck, elbows, and hands. I was nervous to use the sauna at first because I thought sitting in a hot room would dry my skin out even more.
To my surprise, after using the sauna, my skin felt less dry, softer, and more hydrated. I left each session feeling warmed from the inside out, and my skin felt full and plump. I noticed that some acne on my face—particularly around my temples and forehead—had lightly cleared. Larger breakouts on my chin shrank in size.
Eric Ascher, DO, a family medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told Verywell that saunas help to open up pores, allowing them to expel toxins and waste that can lead to blemishes.
Mark Fierstein, MD, clinical assistant professor in the department of medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, added that the dry heat from the sauna increases blood flow to the skin, which can improve conditions like psoriasis.
"This can make the skin firmer and more elastic, which makes the skin look better,” Fierstein told Verywell.
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I Felt More Calm Than Usual
Despite being in such a hot room and sweating profusely, I felt extremely relaxed and calm during each sauna session. Those feelings continued even after I left the sauna. On multiple occasions during my sauna use, I was able to sit in silence and just focus on my breathing.
There’s a reason why people feel relaxed and calm after using a sauna, Mikhael said. It’s because as the body and muscles loosen up, heart rate and blood pressure go down.
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I found I had to drink more water than usual because of how much I sweat in the sauna—at least 2 glasses more than usual each day. Because you can lose up to a pint of water from your body after a sauna session, experts say you should drink at least 2 to 4 glasses of water after you step out.
Because it can worsen dehydration, avoid drinking alcohol in the hours immediately after using a sauna.
How Long to Stay in a Sauna
Fierstein said it is safe to use a sauna every day. However, a single session should be no longer than 15 to 20 minutes. Healthy people who are acclimated to using a sauna already may be able to extend this to 30 minutes, but no longer than that.
Ascher added first-time users should start with 5 to 10 minutes of sauna use and increase their duration as their bodies adjust.
Whether or not you use a sauna before or after your workout depends on your personal preference. Regardless, it's important to be well-hydrated, Mikhael said.
Risks Of Using A Sauna
The biggest risks associated with sauna use are dehydration and overheating, Fierstein said. Blood pressure fluctuations are possible, too.
“In the intense heat of the sauna, it is possible to lose one pint of water through sweating in a single session,” he said. This could be especially problematic among people who have just worked out, or among patients taking certain medications, like diuretics.
Ascher added if you are in the sauna for too long, the heat can place too much stress on your body. This can lead to dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, and nausea.
The sauna at my gym was set between 155 to 165 degrees each time I used it.
Who Shouldn’t Use A Sauna
Certain people should avoid using the sauna, Fierstein said, including:
People under the influence of alcohol and drugs
Patients with uncontrolled hypertension and severe heart disease, including those who have recently experienced heart attacks, heart failure, or heart surgeries
Sick or infected individuals, including those with a fever or acute infections
People with open wounds
Patients with kidney disease
Those with certain skin conditions like atopic dermatitis
People with autonomic dysfunction (those who may have difficulty regulating their heart rates and blood pressure)
People with seizure disorders
Patients with chronic respiratory disease
Children under the age of 6
Ascher added people who suffer from joint pain, and depression and those without pre-existing heart problems can usually “enjoy spending a limited time in the sauna.”
After using a sauna every day for two weeks, I noticed reduced muscle soreness and an improvement in my skin. While I may not use the sauna every day moving forward, I plan to continue using it three to four times per week based on my positive experience, specifically after my more intense lower body strength workouts.