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Using Heat to Change Your Life

I have a new life goal - to own a sauna

I can dream ok!! :)

However, this is also a goal that is underpinned by a whole raft of health benefits, most of which I wasn’t initially aware of beyond ‘I like feeling warm’! I got curious about some of the research going on in this field and was pretty blown away by the size of some of the effects.

What are the benefits?

Ready to get your geek on with me? (I’ve linked a couple of the studies below). Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that most of the research in this area has been done using sauna (easier to control variables than other heating methods!), although that’s not to say you can’t find cheaper and more accessible alternatives to heating/cooling at home also.

  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease events (e.g. heart attack) in both men and women, even when controlled for sex, age, cardiovascular history, socioeconomic status, fitness level, alcohol intake etc.

  • This risk reduction increased in size as frequency of weekly sauna increased (i.e. the more sessions in the sauna each week, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease):

    • 27% less likely to die of a cardiovascular event when sauna 2-3/week*

    • 50% less likely to die of cardiovascular event with sauna 4-7/week*

  • Increased FOX3 & human growth factor associated with greater longevity

  • Reduced risk of ‘psychotic disorders’ (their terminology not mine, and please note this was a study done just on male participants, and is correlation, not causation**)

Put simply: using heat can help you live longer and have less risk of heart attack. And (for me), feels good. Yes to that!

How hot?

Most of the benefits have been shown within the regions of 80-100oC (although be aware that many infrared saunas do not actually get this hot).

When you enter a sauna, it’s likely your body will start to sweat, along with spreading where you separate your limbs wide to increase your surface area to try and off-load heat. Your heart rate is also likely to increase,

The body has a much lower tolerance to heat than it does to cold and hyperthermia is very dangerous: it irreversibly damages nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Be cautious and careful: start small, listen to your body and progress slowly!

Note: If you need to reduce someone’s core body temperature quickly, then apply cold to the glabrous regions of skin: the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and the upper part of the face. Do not put something cold on other regions e.g. chest, back of the neck, as this could potentially increase core body temperature further.

How often?

Many of the benefits can be seen with sauna use 3-4 times a week, but the size of the benefits does increase significantly with more regular use such as 6-7 times a week.

How long?

Studies are suggesting that about 57 minutes a week is enough to reap the benefits, but I don’t think your body is going to recognise the difference between 56 and 58 minutes! Three twenty minute sessions might be a doable way to break this down - but not if you are putting yourself in danger by doing so. You might be better suited to much shorter sessions, at least initially.


Because of the natural cycle our body temperature does across 24 hour period (coldest 2 hours before we wake up then rising during the day before cooling again before we go to sleep), and the fact that heating the body causes our core body temperature to cool, then a helpful time to use sauna might be later in the day.

If access to a sauna is difficult for you (and of course it is not very accessible to many), then you might try things like a heat suit, or even exercising for a short period in a heat suit in order but please be aware of the dangers of becoming too hot, and the dehydration that can also occur through heat treatment. Please be careful and check with your doctor first!

If you’d like to dive (much) deeper into the science and studies backing the use of deliberate heat exposure, then Dr Andrew Huberman’s podcast is a great, accessible way to understand more of the science behind it: The Science & Health Benefits of Deliberate Heat Exposure - Huberman Lab

Does anyone else love heat?

How do you like to use heat and cold?

What are some ways you use heat and cold in your life?

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