Sauna calisthenics healthy?
July 1, 2010 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Why are people exercising in my gym's sauna? Is there a well-known health benefit? Or (even better) is there a well-known reason why one should not exercise in the sauna?

The hot room's really big in the large health club I joined recently in California. Bigger than any in my previous experience; and the only one I've ever experienced where people inside are doing calisthenics -- leg lifts mostly but one guy regularly runs in place. With rooms full of slick exercise equipment just steps away, this seems strange to me, but maybe Science shows that working out in a sweat lodge is a key to fitness?

Please omit any suggestions to just ask them. This question's the type describing a behavior or phenomenon perhaps others here have observed, and they're as interested in the answer as I am; but we'd rather not actually get into a conversation with those people engaged in the phenomenon.
posted by Rash to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
Perhaps they are trying to cut weight? When I coxed in high school, I used to see girls wrap themselves in garbage bags, wear a sweatsuit, run miles, and then sit in the sauna.
posted by ntartifex at 1:51 PM on July 1, 2010

(Obviously, cutting weight is not a great idea.)
posted by ntartifex at 1:52 PM on July 1, 2010

Best answer: I regularly go to Korean spas, where I sit in the jade room with the old Korean ladies, many of whom do a series of stretching exercises. I can only imagine that they do it because they were told it was beneficial.
posted by micawber at 1:53 PM on July 1, 2010

It's just like when Martin Lawrence collapse into a three day coma after running in heavy clothing in 100°+ heat. They are trying to lose a lot of weight quickly and they think it will help. It is incredibly stupid and dangerous.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:56 PM on July 1, 2010

Chris Chelios does/did it. (GO WINGS). There is a lot on the web about his workouts.
posted by travis08 at 1:58 PM on July 1, 2010

There's a hot yoga thing called Bikram yoga and it might have culturally spilled over from that.

leg lifts mostly

posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:59 PM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Weight cutting is my guess too. It's not healthy, and all you lose is water weight. But if they're not competitive athletes, they might just be woefully misinformed - there's a lot of bogus information on weight loss out there, and a lot of people are looking for magic bullets.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:59 PM on July 1, 2010

A coworker of mine swears by Hot Yoga (also known as Bikram Yoga) at temperatures over 95 degrees. Apparently claims are that the heated studio facilitates deeper stretching, injury prevention, and stress and tension relief. Some claim that the exercise gets rid of toxins through the extra sweating.

Personally, if I am going to have a heart attack on purpose, I'd prefer to do it with beer and Philly Cheesesteaks.
posted by cross_impact at 2:01 PM on July 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

Bikram Yoga is done in sauna-like conditions - I believe the jury's still out as to the safety (or indeed the benefits). On preview, what A Terrible LLama said!

Certainly marathons that are run in hot weather have greater health problems in competitors than those run in cool - googling finds couple of linked interesting articles on the issue: one, two. Their conclusions are that the main problems are lack of acclimatisation and underlying health problems. Popping in and out of the sauna does seem a recipe for poor acclimatisation.
posted by Coobeastie at 2:02 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some claim that the exercise gets rid of toxins through the extra sweating.

The word "toxins", used in reference to a diet or exercise program, should pretty much always set off your bullshit detector
posted by chrisamiller at 2:17 PM on July 1, 2010 [18 favorites]

I've seen people do it but I don't think there's any logical reason for it. They think it's a good idea but objectively it's just idiosyncratic.
posted by GuyZero at 2:26 PM on July 1, 2010

I wouldn't say there isn't reason or that it's idiosyncratic at all. In the most basic of definitions your body is a machine (electrical, mechanics, fluids), and any laymen could tell you machines work better when "warmed up". You could simply look at the physiological response of vasodilation that occurs when the body is warm, and note how it impacts the body.
But you could simply warm up on the bike or treadmill and wear sufficient clothes to attain almost the same effect in the short term. So maybe the people you see doing those exercises in the suana have a specific reason, such as an injury and find it best to put it through it's motions at that high of a temperature.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:04 PM on July 1, 2010

Best answer: I have asked a couple of guys at my gym - they said it was to raise their heart rates faster AND loosen up.

In high school, we were allowed to take ballet for gym and the rooms were always VERY warm to keep us looser. That makes sense to me more than the heart rate.
posted by Tchad at 3:06 PM on July 1, 2010

And those guys at your gym - they did multiple measurements of heart rate controlling for other variables? They did extensive stretch measurement tests? There's no evidence that it makes a measurable difference in exercise outcome. People like doing it. Then they justify it post-facto.
posted by GuyZero at 3:17 PM on July 1, 2010

I find it hard to believe that anyone who has ever done more than a couple of sessions of dynamic exercise, or has had a muscle and/or connective tissue injury, wouldn't know the difference between working out in hot or cold climates.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:33 PM on July 1, 2010

Best answer: I do it because I have very dry skin, and exercising before breaking a sweat is very uncomfortable. I stretch and do some jumping jacks in the sauna until I've got a good sweat going, then leave the sauna and workout in the gym.
posted by BigVACub at 4:31 PM on July 1, 2010

« Older I enter into evidence Item #12   |   Please do rot my teeth with the cute? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.