Sauna study fails to show benefit

I admit a fair amount of ignorance about the benefits of saunas, but noticed this new study.

Finnish sauna bathing and vascular health of adults with coronary artery disease: a randomized controlled trial

Regular Finnish sauna use is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality. However, physiological mechanisms underlying this association remain unknown. This study determined if an 8-wk Finnish sauna intervention improves peripheral endothelial function, microvascular function, central arterial stiffness, and blood pressure in adults with coronary artery disease (CAD).
Forty-one adults (62 ± 6 yr, 33 men/8 women) with stable CAD were randomized to 8 wk of Finnish sauna use (n = 21, 4 sessions/wk, 20–30 min/session, 79°C, 13% relative humidity) or a control intervention (n = 20, lifestyle maintenance).

The change in total (P = 0.031) and peak (P = 0.024) reactive hyperemia differed between interventions due to a nonsignificant decrease in response to the sauna intervention and an increase in response to control. The change in cf-PWV (P = 0.816), systolic (P = 0.951), and diastolic (P = 0.292) blood pressure did not differ between interventions. These results demonstrate that four sessions of Finnish sauna bathing per week for 8 wk does not improve markers of vascular health in adults with stable CAD.

https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00322.2023

2 Likes

I’m about to engage in heat and cold exposure (cryotherapy). The results…

These results demonstrate that four sessions of Finnish sauna bathing per week for 8 wk does not improve markers of vascular health in adults with stable CAD.

…seem to suggest maybe doing it for longer than 8 weeks. Maybe a year is needed :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Do it for the mental pleasure which may take many repetitions to achieve. The pleasure may only come afterwards when you feel like you accomplished something important or felt proud of yourself for being brave. Maybe there is a standalone physiological benefit. Maybe not.

4 Likes

I’m after the shock proteins and Sirtuins to activate. But I’ll take feeling like Rambo too :joy:

3 Likes

Good luck! I hope it works.

1 Like

I take the view that Sauna potentially has merit because of improving mitochondrial quality.

I am not persuaded that “activating” sirtuins is in itself a good objective.

3 Likes

An exercise memetic? Gets the HR up?

2 Likes

I’m not surprised that it failed to demonstrate longevity benefits. Let’s face it, if it did, it’d be highly likely that the Finns would overpopulate the ranks of Supercentenarians. But they don’t.

As an aside, I lived in Finland for a year in 1991. Of course, every Finnish friend insisted on introducing me to the bloody sauna! I hated it!!

3 Likes

could it be that they are using heat to replace the lack of sunlight for much of the year out of necessity?

3 Likes

Lack of the benefits may have to do something with the length of the study, which was 8 weeks long. The other study that showed benefits was conducted over 20.7 years period https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2130724

5 Likes

I agree - a ridiculously short period of time for a trial like this.

4 Likes

I disagree. You have had a population-scale “clinical trial” of sauna use going on for a couple of hundred years. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Finland does not show any above-average age of population. In addition, the Finns are rather genetically homogeneous (at least, they were until they joined the EU) so any sauna benefits should be even more likely to show up. But they don’t.

1 Like

Do we have a placebo group? Are there Finns that don’t sauna?

“An exercise memetic? Gets the HR up?”
Exactly, I use the steam room more than the sauna, just because I enjoy it more. I use the heart rate monitor on my smartwatch to tell me how long to stay in. I usually aim for a 40 bpm increase in heart rate. The reason for this instead of timing is that the temperature in both the steam room and sauna varies somewhat depending on how many people are opening the door entering or exiting. I don’t care so much about studies. I find spending some time in the steam room enjoyable, it just boosts my feeling of well-being for the day. I also think the steam room and sauna have benefits for the skin. If I get some improved mitochondrial quality, that is a bonus.

3 Likes

Sauna can feel good, but it’s probably meant to be done in the countryside on a cold summer evening right at dusk. It feels great to get out of the sauna and juxtapose it with cold. I wouldn’t do it without that, that’s when it’s special IMO.

@desertshores I think you are right on the money. My only heat training comes from riding my stationary bike in my garage with the fan off. It makes a huge impact on my HR. I do it occasionally when I want a bigger cardio hit without going harder on my joints or muscles while in a recovery mode. (Everyday is leg day!).

I am writing this post from my sauna so admittedly biased. A couple mouse clicks and there are plenty of studies on sauna use being good for you on many levels. My favorites are the impact and use of the vascular system. Hot and cold really use our vascular system which is fairly dormant in clothes in heated and cooled homes. I also enjoy the toxins being removed and combined with clay and other binders really cleans you out. Also the anti inflammation is noticeable in muscle
Tenderness/tightness. Like Charles I enjoy the ritual a lot and recommend it for folks who haven’t tried it. I have convinced a few colleagues who work with me to get one and they have no regrets.

3 Likes

You’re not thinking big enough…

The “control” would be a country of approximately the same living standards, demographics, etc in which sauna use is rare.

8 weeks is hardly enough time. Meanwhile there are plenty of studies that were done over years that show otherwise.

There was another study recently about men age 40 and being able to do 40 or more push ups in 30 seconds and CVD events over the course of the next 10 years. 1100 firefighters. Those 10 or under as a opposed to 40 or greater had a stark difference in cardiac health over the next decade.

1 Like

I was only half serious. Not too concerned about saunas. I live in Arizona. If I want a heat stress I go for a bike ride or work in the yard lol.

2 Likes