Athletes are susceptible to various injuries such as sprains, strains, fractures, and overuse damage more than anyone else in the world, thanks to their constantly pushing their bodies to physical limits.
One downside athletes also face is the slow and often painful recovery process to get their bodies back to full capacity of motion. Luckily, regular infrared sauna use can help expedite this process.
What Benefits does Infrared Heat Provide for Athletes?
Infrared saunas have been popular in recent years due to the numerous health benefits they provide for very few drawbacks, particularly among athletes.
As long as you don’t have a history of heart disease and high or low blood pressure, you can access these perks for only 10-20 minute sessions a day after an intense workout.
When applied, far-infrared heat can help loosen tense muscles, improve physical recovery rate, and detoxify both body and mind. These benefits include the following:
Reduced Muscle Soreness
After an intense workout session, athletes often experience fatigue and stress on their neuromuscular system. The neuromuscular system includes all the muscles in your body and the nerves connecting them. They work together to make your body move as you want it to.
Studies show that an infrared sauna can help reduce muscle swelling and maximise muscle recovery after an intense workout session.
Increased blood flow
Undergoing an infrared sauna session can make your body undergo a physiological process called vasodilation, in which your blood vessels become more elastic and pump more oxygenated blood throughout your body.
Due to this newly-found oxygen-rich blood flow, this can lead to an increase in endurance threshold, which results in a better overall performance for your future workouts.
Improved muscle recovery
Infrared saunas can maximise your muscle recovery better when compared to taking a passive recovery approach, which made it an instant hit among athletes.
Since most infrared sauna models in the market today can penetrate around 3-4 cm of skin, allowing nutrient and oxygen-rich blood to flow towards the muscle faster, this in turn provides the potential to engage in higher-intensity workout sessions.
Additionally, since they use infrared heat (around 45-65°C), infrared saunas are generally a more gentle and relaxing experience as opposed to the heat of steam baths (around 70˚C to 90˚C).
Athletes who dislike the hot and humidity traditional saunas have will find that infrared saunas are a more comfortable option.
Are you an endurance-based athlete? Aside from helping soothe muscle swelling and maximise recovery, studies also show that infrared saunas can also help the body get rid of toxins such as lactic acid.
High-intensity workouts, especially anaerobic activities, can lead to the production of lactic acid as a byproduct of energy metabolism.
This can contribute to muscle soreness and fatigue, because higher blood lactate levels can impede the muscle’s capacity for more work to prevent overexertion.
Metabolic waste products such as lactic acid are carried out of the body through sweating faster thanks to increased blood flow.
Enhanced cognitive function
While infrared saunas are primarily used to relieve physical tension and detoxification purposes, they can also lead to better cognitive function.
With regular use, athletes using infrared sauna can lead to peak mental health performance and minimise their chance of getting neurocognitive diseases and any mental health disorders.
Heat therapy has been proven to release endorphins– the body’s feel-good hormone– and mitigate cortisol production– the body’s stress hormone.
This is a great benefit for athletes establishing good habits, since high amounts of cortisol can disrupt your sleeping patterns. Additionally, cortisol can slow down your metabolism, which can increase a person’s appetite and weight gain.
Whether you’re an elite athlete exploring options to maximise your recovery or a casual one looking for a relaxing post-workout activity, infrared saunas are a non-invasive form of alternative therapy that offers you numerous health benefits to improve your performance.