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How to Use Heat Exposure for Longevity
The best sauna longevity tips
Sauna is not a major, but it is a useful tool for the Highlander. It’s like a sub-major of exercise.
Like exercise, heat exposure in a sauna creates “hormetic stress” on the body. Hormetic stress is a mild stress that makes your body more resilient in response. Sauna is also known to increase expression of heat shock proteins in the body. These proteins broadly assist in longevity by fighting neurodegenerative diseases (dementia, Alzheimer’s) as well as reducing muscle atrophy. Sauna enhances longevity through risk reduction of several diseases including cardiovascular events.
Here are the keys to using sauna effectively as a longevity tool:
Aim for sessions of 20 minutes. Less time seems to reduce the physical response.
Sauna temperature should be 170-180 degrees Fahrenheit or greater. Lower temperatures may not come with the same benefits.
Use dry sauna rather than steam-related heat. Steam may also come with longevity benefits, but the research is stronger for dry sauna.
Use the sauna 2-3x per week. More exposure may improve results, but it must fit in your schedule and not interfere with other hormetic stressors.
Schedule sauna time around workouts. One study shows that sauna exposure post workout may affect high-intensity physical performance the following day. This makes some sense as you’re accumulating additional stress from heat exposure on top of stress from exercise. Another study shows that sauna may increase endurance. I schedule sauna away from strength training and zone 5 cardio in the Highlander Program. Sauna is probably ok after zone 2 cardio.
For the same reason, don’t use sauna prior to a strength or cardio workout.
If you’re a male dealing with fertility issues, it may be worth avoiding sauna until you correct the infertility.
Sauna before bed may assist in better sleep. If you can, do sauna 1-2 hours before bed for sleep benefits. A hot bath may also be effective and more convenient.