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Spending time in a sauna or steam room is very therapeutic. It’s quintessentially relaxing, serving as a method for melting away stress or jumpstarting muscle recovery after a tough workout while providing a plethora of health benefits.
The sauna, unfortunately, isn’t strictly positive. There are risks and dangers associated with sauna use, specifically overuse, that can create life-threatening conditions, so it’s important to keep your sauna session to an appropriate length for safety reasons.
So, exactly how long should you stay in a sauna to enjoy the many health benefits without putting yourself at risk?
Dr. Michael Masi, DPT, answers this question, discusses benefits associated with regular sauna use, and describes the potential risks, so you can enjoy your sauna sessions safely.
Medical disclaimer: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. For health advice, contact a licensed healthcare provider.
How Long Should You Stay In a Sauna?
“The longer you stay in a sauna, the greater your risk of dehydration1 is,” says Dr. Masi. “That’s why most studies on the effects of sauna use generally limit sauna session duration to no more than 20 minutes at a time.”
If you are a seasoned sauna user, spending approximately 10 to 15 minutes is considered adequate for receiving health benefits while keeping risks relatively low.
Beginners may not be as accustomed to the high temperatures of the sauna, which can range between 110 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit depending on which type of sauna you’re using.
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“The best way to acclimate is to start small and build,” says Dr. Masi. “For beginners, I recommend no longer than 5- or 10-minute sessions, focusing on hydration at all times. And, as a general rule, you should never stay in the sauna if you feel like it’s too much.”
After a Workout
Sitting in the sauna after a workout will yield some sport-specific benefits that are hard to ignore.
For example, a 2015 study in SpringerPlus2 determined that sauna bathing, through use of either a traditional Finnish sauna or far infrared sauna, had a positive effect on “neuromuscular system [recovery after] maximal endurance performance.”
A 2023 study in Biology of Sport3 corroborated these findings, finding that male basketball players who participated in infrared sauna bathing as part of a post-exercise regimen showed improvements in their explosive performance, diminished muscle soreness and inflammation, and mental health benefits, including improved mood, increased morale, and a greater feeling of preparedness.
RELATED: Benefits Of Sauna After Workouts
“Experienced sauna bathers are welcome to sit in the sauna for 15 to 20 minutes at a time,” says Dr. Masi, “but I recommend waiting at least 10 minutes after exercise before subjecting yourself to further sweating. Take that time to cool down and drink plenty of water, so your risk of adverse effects is minimal once you get in there.”
Different Types of Saunas
There are a few different types of saunas available, each offering a different sauna experience. Whether you’re researching gyms and spas with saunas and/or steam rooms or looking to buy one of the best home saunas for your own private use, it’s important to understand the features of each in order to receive the best sauna experience for you.
The first type of sauna is the traditional sauna, which creates dry heat through the use of hot stones and either a wood-burning stove or electric heater. The sauna temperatures of a dry sauna often range from 160 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
A steam room, on the other hand, trades the high temperature and low humidity of the dry sauna for lower temperatures, usually between 110 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and nearly 100% humidity. The moist air is especially good for your skin, but the steam room’s benefits are otherwise quite similar to the benefits of other sauna types.
Infrared saunas are relatively new, invented only a few decades ago. They are similar to dry saunas in that they offer a low-humidity environment, but how they create heat is revolutionary by comparison. Instead of heating the sauna air, the infrared sauna uses infrared rays to heat the body directly.
So, you will feel like you are in a regular sauna while using an infrared sauna, but the air temperature is a comparatively conservative 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Benefits of Using a Sauna
We touched on how sauna bathing can be used effectively as a post-exercise muscle recovery tool, but what other benefits does sauna bathing provide?
May Improve Heart Health
There have been many studies over the years to explore the relationship between regular sauna bathing and cardiovascular mortality.
For example, a 2018 study published in BMC Medicine4 found that men and women who sat in the sauna regularly exhibited greater cardiovascular health, with both reduced risk of fatal heart diseases as well as more accurate risk prediction.
A 2023 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging5 corroborated this finding, stating that “frequent sauna baths may offset the increased risk of CVD mortality.”
May Help with Weight Loss
You’ll observe an immediate loss in water weight when sweating it out in the sauna, but could the sauna contribute to permanent weight loss as well?
“Saunas are effective for weight loss for many reasons,” says Dr. Masi. “Static exposure to a hot environment affects the body in a way that’s very similar to moderate exercise, including an increase in body temperature, heart rate, and blood flow, meaning you will burn calories while sitting in the sauna.”
A 2019 study in BioMed Research International6 found that repeated use of a dry sauna had a positive impact on the body composition of young sedentary and overweight men. Researchers observed improvements in body fat percentage, body fat mass, overall body mass, body mass index, body surface area, and visceral fat level.
A 2021 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health7 corroborated this finding, stating that “exposure to heat at high temperatures could produce improvements in bone and muscle mass” in healthy young men.
RELATED: Sauna For Weight Loss: Can It Help?
May Decrease Blood Pressure
A 2018 study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings8 cites various benefits associated with sauna use, including “improved endothelium-dependent dilatation, reduced arterial stiffness…[and a] lowering of systemic blood pressure.”
“Saunas affect blood pressure positively due to the high temperatures, which cause blood vessels to dilate and improve blood flow,” says Dr. Masi. “Some individuals with high blood pressure may be medically contraindicated from sauna use, however, so it’s important to discuss your specific health conditions and risk factors before enjoying.”
May Provide Detoxification
Sweating is known to purge the body of various toxins, but a 2022 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health9 studied this effect specifically. Researchers found that the sweat of the study participants, who either ran on a treadmill or sat in the sauna in order to perspire, contained concentrations of various heavy metals, including nickel, lead, copper, arsenic, and mercury.
The study found that “the removal of heavy metals from the body through dynamic exercise may be more effective than removal through static exposure to a hot environment,” but that’s why the combination of exercising and sitting in the sauna will provide you with the best results.
Potential Risks of Using a Sauna
Saunas can be beneficial for your overall health and wellness, but there are some risks.
Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance10 are two common adverse effects associated with overuse or irresponsible use of the sauna, and both could result in life-threatening conditions if not properly managed.
“Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your session to prevent dehydration,” advises Dr. Masi. “Drinking one of the best electrolyte drinks is helpful as well, but you could also focus on fueling up with electrolyte-rich foods instead, namely bananas, avocados, watermelon, spinach, greens, and more.”
Spending an inordinately lengthy amount of time in the sauna also could cause heat stroke, which is categorized by feelings of dizziness and nausea. Always limit your sauna session to a duration that is comfortable for you, even if it is less time than what most people are typically able to withstand.
How Long Should You Stay In a Sauna? Final Thoughts
There’s a reason spending time in the sauna is a deeply ingrained part of the culture in Finland, the birthplace of the sauna. Sitting and sweating yields various health benefits, provided you don’t overdo things.
The amount of time you should spend in the sauna all depends on your experience using saunas. Beginners should err on the side of caution and limit the duration of their session to 5 or 10 minutes, while seasoned sauna bathers may choose to extend their sessions to approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
Are you ready to start enjoying the many benefits of sauna bathing? Grab your towel, set a timer, and get ready to unlock a whole new world of health benefits!
How Long Should You Stay In a Sauna? Q&A
How long do you have to sit in a sauna to detox your body?
Your sweat should contain concentrations of toxins and various heavy metals, regardless of the sweat volume and duration of your stay, but the aforementioned study9 implemented 20-minute sauna sessions to draw their conclusions.
Is it OK to sauna every day?
According to Dr. Masi, it is 100% OK to sit in the sauna daily, provided you:
-limit sauna sessions to an appropriate length
-stay properly hydrated
-discuss your risk factors with your doctor first
So long as you are not medically contraindicated from using a sauna, it should be safe for you to enjoy the sauna every day.
Is it OK to be in the sauna for 30 minutes?
Generally speaking, 15 to 20 minutes is adequate for a single sauna session. That said, some studies11 have subjected participants to 30-minute sessions with no reported adverse effects.
If you have built a tolerance to the high temperatures of the sauna, sitting for 30 minutes should be OK. Be sure to discuss your personal risk factors with your doctor before beginning any type of sauna bathing routine.
Is 1 hour sauna too long?
In 2013, then UFC fighter Ronda Rousey made headlines by spending five hours in a sauna, shedding an unprecedented 17 pounds in a single day.
This behavior put her at serious risk of dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and heat stroke, but Rousey managed to persevere with no immediate consequence. This shows that it is possible to sit in a sauna for one hour, but we would never recommend any action that places your health in jeopardy.
Limiting sauna sessions to 15 to 20 minutes at a time is safe and effective, so keep those sessions short and sweet and you’ll still enjoy many health benefits all the same!
Taylor K, Jones EB. Adult Dehydration. [Updated 2022 Oct 3]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan
2. Mero A, Tornberg J, Mäntykoski M, Puurtinen R. Effects of far-infrared sauna bathing on recovery from strength and endurance training sessions in men. Springerplus. 2015;4:321. Published 2015 Jul 7. doi:10.1186/s40064-015-1093-5
3. Ahokas EK, Ihalainen JK, Hanstock HG, Savolainen E, Kyröläinen H. A post-exercise infrared sauna session improves recovery of neuromuscular performance and muscle soreness after resistance exercise training. Biol Sport. 2023;40(3):681-689. doi:10.5114/biolsport.2023.119289
4. Laukkanen T, Kunutsor SK, Khan H, Willeit P, Zaccardi F, Laukkanen JA. Sauna bathing is associated with reduced cardiovascular mortality and improves risk prediction in men and women: a prospective cohort study. BMC Med. 2018;16(1):219. Published 2018 Nov 29. doi:10.1186/s12916-018-1198-0
5. Laukkanen JA, Jae SY, Kauhanen J, Kunutsor SK. The Interplay between Systolic Blood Pressure, Sauna Bathing, and Cardiovascular Mortality in Middle-Aged and Older Finnish Men: A Cohort Study. J Nutr Health Aging. 2023;27(5):348-353. doi:10.1007/s12603-023-1895-1
6. Podstawski R, Borysławski K, Clark CCT, Choszcz D, Finn KJ, Gronek P. Correlations between Repeated Use of Dry Sauna for 4 x 10 Minutes, Physiological Parameters, Anthropometric Features, and Body Composition in Young Sedentary and Overweight Men: Health Implications. Biomed Res Int. 2019;2019:7535140. Published 2019 Jan 21. doi:10.1155/2019/7535140
7. Toro V, Siquier-Coll J, Bartolomé I, et al. Effects of Twelve Sessions of High-Temperature Sauna Baths on Body Composition in Healthy Young Men. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(9):4458. Published 2021 Apr 22. doi:10.3390/ijerph18094458
8. Laukkanen JA, Laukkanen T, Kunutsor SK. Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing: A Review of the Evidence. Mayo Clin Proc. 2018;93(8):1111-1121. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2018.04.008
9. Kuan WH, Chen YL, Liu CL. Excretion of Ni, Pb, Cu, As, and Hg in Sweat under Two Sweating Conditions. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(7):4323. Published 2022 Apr 4. doi:10.3390/ijerph19074323
10. Shrimanker I, Bhattarai S. Electrolytes. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; July 24, 2023.
11. Laukkanen T, Kunutsor SK, Zaccardi F, et al. Acute effects of sauna bathing on cardiovascular function. J Hum Hypertens. 2018;32(2):129-138. doi:10.1038/s41371-017-0008-z
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Spending time in a sauna or steam room is very therapeutic. It’s quintessentially relaxing, serving as a method for melting away stress or jumpstarting muscle recovery after a tough workout while providing a plethora of health benefits.The sauna, unfortunately, isn’t strictly positive. There are risks and dangers associated with sauna use, specifically overuse, that can create life-threatening conditions, so it’s important to keep your sauna session to an appropriate length for safety reasons. » Read more about: How Long Should You Stay In a Sauna? ￼ » Read more