Hooray! Science Says a Sauna Session Qualifies As a "Workout"

Your relaxation session just got even better.

Spending some time in the sauna comes with a lot of health benefits, including increasing your blood circulation, easing your sore muscles, and softening your skin. But, according to a new study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, a sauna session is even better for your health than you might have thought.

Researchers at the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany measured the blood pressure and heart rate of 19 participants during and after a 25-minute sauna session. They found that both levels increased during the session, but dropped below baseline levels afterwards. They then measured the blood pressure and heart rates of the subjects while they exercised on a bike, and found that the effects were surprisingly similar.

"The participants' blood pressure and heart rate reached the same levels during the sauna session as they did with a load of about 100 watts during the exercise test," Dr. Sascha Ketelhut, a sports scientist at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and lead author of the study, said in a press release. "A sauna session is a physical strain. Its long-term positive effects are similar to sports activities."

Granted, you're not burning calories in the same way that you would during a workout session. As Ketelhut noted, "although we lose weight in the sauna" that's only due to "the fluids that we sweat out," meaning water weight. He also warned that "people with low blood pressure should be cautious afterwards, as their blood pressure may then fall below the levels registered before the sauna visit."

But if you've had a long day and just don't have it in you to hit the gym, it's nice to know that doing something as relaxing as soaking up the heat and steam of a sauna session just may make up for it. And for more ways to fit mindful activities into your day, check out 20 Best Ways to Be More Mindful at Work.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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