(Breather) I don’t know about you but I can’t make it through the cold winter days without access to either a sauna or a hot tub. Once I get a little chill (usually from doing a workout and then not showering right away), I feel it the entire day.
Facing a Lake Tahoe-style winter for the first time, my Almost Heaven Sauna is going to be a lifesaver, social centerpiece, and amazing tool for cardiovascular fitness and health, and disease protection. In this show, I walk you through the many scientifically validated benefits of sauna use, as well as the big picture benefits of achieving warmth any time you want, and experiencing an incredible general relaxation effect and social bonding experience.
I describe my personal regimen where I want to get the most bang for my buck as fast as possible. So I crank up the heat on my Almost Heaven Harvia unit through a double cycle and get it up to 210F! By comparison, most health clubs and spas have saunas running at 175F, not wishing to over-stress a random user. As soon as I enter that crazy hot barrell, I immediately commence 40 pushups followed by 40 deep squats. This will prompt profuse sweating only a few minutes after I enter, and then I relax on the bench and enter an incredibly relaxed, trance-like state. I’ll get out after I’ve been sweating profusely for a good 10-15 minutes. This is a sign that the esteemed Heat Shock Proteins have been released to work their magic on my brain, cardiovascular system, and muscular system.
The sauna is also your friend when it comes to the risk of cognitive decline and muscle atrophy that comes with aging, because of its detoxification, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging benefits. They can improve liver function, especially if your liver has been damaged or stressed, and help you sweat out nasty, bio-accumulated toxins, like BPA. BPA is a chemical you can find anywhere, and unfortunately, one that a lot of people don’t even know is in their system. After I did my Nourish Balance Thrive testing, I discovered I had toxic petroleum products, as well as plastic contaminants, in my system. My first move was to sweat it out until I was profusely sweating and then scrub my skin in the shower with a good soap, like Dr. Bronner’s. Moral of the story: be careful about those water bottles you leave in your car! And if you do forget to take some out of your car, use the leftover water to water some plants – but don’t ever drink it!
A consistent sauna regimen of 2-3 times a week will lower your heart attack risk by 20%, while going 4 -7 times a week will result in a 48% reduction! Combine that with regular exercise, and your heart disease risk will lower even further, and improve your vascular function. Just as impressively, studies have shown sauna use can greatly improve depression and anxiety levels.
Finally, I suggest you try going into the sauna after working out, as it greatly improves your conditioning response. Research, as well as personal experience, has shown me that post-workout sauna sessions can significantly alleviate the muscle soreness one usually experiences the following day. I’m also a fan of taking a warm/regular temperature shower after my sauna session, as this allows your body to naturally cool down afterward. Check out Almost Heaven, or start small, trying the sauna out at your local health club, and let me know how your experience goes with this therapeutic practice!
Regular sauna therapy has many benefits, especially keeping your body warm. [03:48]
What are some of the other health and disease protection benefits of sauna? [07:47]
Sweat contains nasty toxins that should be sweated out! [11:16]
Heated plastic, like water bottles in the car, can be harmful. [13:32]
Regular use reduces overall oxidative stress and inflammation. [16:43]
It also has some good effects on depression, anxiety, and other mental conditions. [19:45]
If you are tight and inflamed from a workout, the sauna increases the blood flow. [22:55]
Before you do sauna regularly, be sure to have medical clearance. [23:26]
Contrast Therapy is switching back and forth between hot and cold therapies. [25:16]
- Dr. Rhonda Patrick
- Nourish Balance Thrive
- Dr. Bronner Castile soap
- Brad Kearns’ Cold Therapy
- Almost Heaven Saunas
LISTEN:Download Episode MP3
Get Over Yourself Podcast
Brad: 00:08 Welcome to the get over yourself podcast. This is author and athlete, Brad Kearns, discovering ways to be healthy, fit and happy in hectic, high stress modern life. So let’s slow down and take a deep breath. Take a cold plunge and expertly balanced that competitive intensity with an appreciation of the journey. That’s the theme of the show. Here we go.
Brad: 03:48 Brad. Let’s do a whole show on the wide and ranging health and disease protection, benefits of regular sauna therapy as they say in Finland or sauna as they say in lazy American accent. Either way, it’s a pretty fantastic health regimen. I love to start with the biggest picture benefits of all. And that is you step into one of these things and you will get your body warm no matter what climate or circumstances you’ve been exercising or living in. And let me tell you that’s important because with my move to beautiful, fabulous Lake Tahoe, well, the winter’s ahead, and I’m not a huge winter guy, I’m a lifelong California guy.
Brad: 04:29 LA boy get a little wimpy and chilly and cold when it’s cold out. And I don’t know about you, but sometimes when you catch a chill during a cold day, whether it’s having done a workout and then you come home, you don’t take a shower right away, you are putzing around. And I’ve had these occasions where I just catch a little chill and I’m cold for the rest of the day. I just can’t get warm. Uh, I’ll wear a hat that really helps a nice furry soft hat, uh, but having the sauna at your disposal, Oh my gosh, it’s a real lifesaver and it gets me through the winter months. Piece of cake. So what did I do? I just got my second unit from Almost Heaven saunas. The fabulous manufacturers of these beautiful home use sauna a kit. So for a very affordable price, you can check many different models on their website.
Brad: 05:18 You order it, they ship it to you, you watch the video, you put the thing together and you are in the sauna business. Uh, yes you can go to the health club and have a nice social interaction. I’ve met some cool people in the sauna at the health club down the street, but it’s not quite the same as being able to turn the dial and in 30 minutes get into a warm environment to relax and enjoy wide ranging benefits, which we’re going to discuss in detail. So, Oh my gosh, I mean you already hear the commercial commercial, but let me just highly recommend sauna therapy for so many reasons. Starting with keeping your body warm and then backing that up is the general overall relaxation. This is a therapeutic treatment for the mind and the body. And after a busy, stressful day, it feels really great to go into a super hot environment, relax on the bench.
Brad: 06:09 Ah, take some deep breaths. Uh, the social connection. There’s a wonderful attribute also. Same with the spa, the jacuzzi. And I’ve had that through my entire life going back to when I was a kid and when we’re in the high school runners, we would always meet up in the evening for a jacuzzi session where we’d relax our aching overtrained muscles cause we didn’t really know what we were doing back then and talk about the important matters of the day and of life. Relaxing under the stars. Okay. There weren’t really any stars in Los Angeles, but at Dr. Steve Kobrine’s house, they had bagels. So that was great. And we’d enjoy his jacuzzi over and over, a centerpiece of life and high school social experience. And then with my own kids, just about every single day from, let’s see, when my son was zero all the way up to age 14, we’d go in there.
Brad: 07:05 It was our evening appointment and what a great bonding experience that was to share that. We still do it to this day. Just take a jacuzzi, relax. Maybe you’re talking, maybe you’re not, it doesn’t matter. Just there enjoying the bubbles and the sauna is the same thing. I’m a new enthusiastic of sauna cause I haven’t had access. I mean come on, how many of us can take over a bathroom and turn it into a sauna? First of all, you lose a bathroom. Second of all, we don’t know what the heck we’re doing with all those power tools. So Almost Heaven made it a reality and my side yard and it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. So I’m pulling the trigger for another one and I will have sauna as a constant companion in my life.
Brad: 07:47 Let’s get into the many health and disease protection benefits. Dr Rhonda Patrick a great resource. @foundmy fitness.com. She has a PDF just like she does for cold therapy. There’s one for sauna, a therapy with all these links and references to great science. As you know, it’s been a cultural mainstay for hundreds of years in Scandinavia and there’s plenty of support for these amazing revelations of the, uh, disease protection, especially for cardiovascular. Uh, Dr. Patrick goes so far as to predict that in the next 10 years, “sauna of bathing will become part of the standard care for the prevention and treatment of heart disease and a variety of heart conditions.” Studies show that if you do intensive sauna, a therapy such as four to seven times a week, and the studies talking about a temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s around 80 Celsius for 20 minutes. That’s kind of your basic sauna session, I’ll tell you why later, but I like to crank up that temperature much higher and have a more intense, uh, heat shock therapy eliciting experience in the sauna. But anyway, that frequent sauna use is associated with 50% reduction in a total heart disease, fatal heart disease, 60% reduction in risk of sudden cardiac death, 60% reduction in Alzheimer’s risk, 51% reduction in stroke, 46% for hypertension.
Brad: 09:12 And other research shows that a single session, one visit to the sauna will lower blood pressure, improve your heart rate variability, right? The beat to beat fluctuations in your heart will improve. Meaning the heart rate variability score will go up, meaning that the sauna will relax you for hours afterward and it also improves arterial function, arterial flow. So here’s the interesting thing. The experience in the sauna is very similar or you might even say or argue identical to a workout with your cardiovascular system. What happens? The blood starts flowing. A huge transition of the blood flowing from the, uh, the organs, the core into the extremities. Just like when you’re doing a workout, your heart rate will increase up to 150 beats per minute. That could be at or above maximum aerobic heart rate. How about that? Hey, want to go for a five mile run?
Brad: 10:08 No thanks. I’m going to go sit in the sauna and get a similar cardiovascular benefit. Have a great time. Uh, I don’t know. Of course, uh, training specificity kicks in here and getting on your feet and running is going to have a better predictability to your fitness improvement. But the idea that you are truly getting a cardiovascular workout with numerous positive health benefits and fitness benefits in the sauna is irrefutable. Uh, it’s been shown that cardiac output increases by 60 to 70% when you’re just sitting there. And when you get out and recalibrate back to homeostasis, lowering your core body temperature and getting all your systems back on online working normally, that’s when you get all these incredible health benefits and increased resiliency to all other forms of stress. It’s called a hormetic stressor, a brief positive natural stressor. The driving force here is believed to be these vaunted heat shock proteins, HSP and they are produced when your body is subjected to heat stress such as entering the sauna.
Brad: 11:16 And they have profound benefits, wide ranging benefits all across the body, especially in the brain. They have been shown to prevent and slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s. They also slow muscle atrophy. So as you’re getting older and at risk of cognitive decline and muscle atrophy, the sauna is your friend. They have many other benefits related to detoxification, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. So as Dr. Patrick details in her papers, they trigger a quote, compensatory adaptations and activate antioxidant defenses in study subjects. And they also helped improve the functioning of the liver, especially if it’s been damaged or stressed. Uh, besides the release of these wonderful heat shock proteins throughout the bloodstream, throughout the body, they sweating itself. When you get into profuse sweating, which is the desired state to get the maximum, uh, response of heat shock proteins. You’re also getting a detox effect from the sweating.
Brad: 12:22 Sweat has been shown to contain an assortment of nasty toxins. Bio accumulated toxins. They’re called, including the notorious BP a, which is a chemical contaminant found all over the place, especially in your plastic water bottles. That’s why you see those designations BPA free, he found in your sweat. So sweat that stuff out. Sweat has also been found and discovered a fifth of late arsenic lead. If you have the stuff in your bloodstream, obviously. So when you’re sweating, you’re purging it. Uh, and sometimes this stuff comes out of your sweat, even when it doesn’t show up in the blood or urine. So the sweating also helps improve kidney function, kind of boosting the nitrogen excretion that your kidneys are supposed to do, but sometimes get caught up and Oh my goodness. When I reported on previous shows about my comprehensive testing that I had done with Nourish, Balance Thrive, it was revealed that I had toxic petroleum by products in my blood test as well as plastic contaminants revealed in the blood tests.
Brad: 13:32 So my prescription from Nourish Balance Thrive guy, Chris Kelly, was to go sit in the sauna and get to the point where I was profusely sweating and could barely stand it anymore. So maximum heat shock proteins, maximum sweating, and then go race over to the shower and scrub really hard with a good quality natural soap like the Dr Bronner’s Castile soap and scrub the skin and get that detox effect from the sweating, purging, uh, of this nasty petroleum and plastic stuff. Why was that stuff in my bloodstream as mr healthy guy, uh, one functional medicine specialists that I know, uh, speculated or asked me straight up, did you grow up in, uh, the, the, um, didn’t you grow up in the San Fernando Valley in the, uh, Los Angeles area during the smoggy heyday of the seventies and eighties. And, uh, that was possibly why these toxins remain in my bloodstream. And then the plastic part is perhaps consuming, uh, those disposable water bottles after they’d been heated up and I realized that, yeah, those bottles sit in my car during the day.
Brad: 14:39 The next morning they’re nice and cool and I drink them. Uh, but maybe I was somehow getting some plastic. Same with a, a serious bicyclists where you have the plastic bottle on your, uh, tube and the sun’s beating down and when the plastic interacts with the heat, the chemicals, the molecules leach into the water supply. That’s why you don’t want to ever microwave anything in plastic that heating up the plastic will put those estrogenic compounds right into your soup or whenever you’re heating up and you’ll grow man boobs. Really bad stuff. Okay. So that’s why sweating is a big part of the a sauna benefits. And basically to kind of explain what’s going on here, summarize it just like with my detailed show on cold exposure. What you’re doing here is you’re, you’re creating this hormetic stressor and generating a net overall health benefit due to the fight or flight stimulation that happens when you first step in and start to experience a, an increase in body temperature.
Brad: 15:41 So this is a, uh, stressful event to the body. It spikes your fight or flight hormones and your cortisol levels. And we talk about this so often in a negative context because we’re talking about the chronic stressors of daily life. So the magic of jumping in the cold tub for a few minutes or sitting in the sauna for 20 to 30 minutes is the short duration allows you to step out and then recalibrate to homeostasis before any negative effects occur. So if I get on here and start talking about sitting in your chest freezer for 45 minutes to an hour at 36 degrees, you’re going to be dead. It’s not going to be a helpful, positive stressor. Same with the sauna. If you sit in there for uh, what three hours and sweat and get dehydrated, you’re going to be a big trouble. So it’s the dose response of getting in there briefly, getting that body temperature spike, getting those hormone spikes, and then the compensatory response occurs when you exit the dwelling.
Brad: 16:43 Get it? So that exposure, just like a workout, exactly the same thing. You lift weights, lift weights, lift weights. You don’t destroy your muscles by doing it for an hour, a bicep curl workout of 4,000 reps. you give that brief stimulation and then the compensatory response occurs and you return to life stronger and more resilient against all other forms of stress. So not just heat stress in terms of the sauna on or cold stress in terms of doing the tub and boy you’re rocking and rolling. So if you are regular enthusiasts, which many of the studies defined as two to three times a week, but there is a dose response here too. So more is better. So there’s other stats for four to seven times a week. But regular use reduces overall oxidative stress and inflammation. Hmm, that’s interesting because those two are often referred to as the root cause of virtually all degenerative disease and aging, oxidative stress and inflammation, inflammatory processes.
Brad: 17:44 So when you get this acute stress, acute stress of inflammation, uh, obviously everything’s inflamed. When you’re going up there, you’re body temperatures up, blood pressure, heart rate, and you get out. That’s how you fine tune things so you can handle more. And so, uh, you know, the famous blood test, uh, high sensitivity, C reactive protein, that’s the favorite inflammatory marker that you’ll see in your blood work or you’re a doctor or a podcast. No, it all, we’ll reference that a lot. Your HS, CRP or your CRP number will go down with regular sauna use. And if you can get that puppy down into, uh, you know, the, the one or below range instead of the six, seven, eight or 10 range, that’s indicating a chronic inflammatory process, you are getting into the category of a heart disease, uh, proof. You’re proofing yourself from heart disease risk.
Brad: 18:37 Okay. So if you go just two to three times a week, 23% reduction in heart disease, heart attack risk, and four to seven times a week, 48% reduction, uh, combine that with exercise being regular exercise, right? Your regular cardiovascular exercise and your heart disease risk goes down even further. So you’re stressing the heart, making it stronger and more resilient. Get it. It also improves vascular function, kind of important for heart disease risk and also, uh, general, uh, peak performance, uh, fitness progress. Even one visit to the sauna or one workout, right. Uh, reduces what’s called vascular resistance and this is how well your blood vessels handle the, uh, the flow of the blood through. So when you have hypertension, your resistance is high, high blood pressure. And if you are smooth and fluid, yeah, you’re doing better. So you’re going to get better readings. Also in the metabolic markers such as insulin sensitivity, your glucose values, your HBA, one C, that’s your estimated average glucose over a long period of time.
Brad: 19:45 And also body fat reduction. Yeah. From sitting in the sauna. Amazing. Again, it’s the acute stressor that’s asking for increased calorie burning, increased fat burning to handle the temperature, increase your body’s, uh, battling doing the best it can and then coming down to a better baseline level. It also has some good effects on depression, anxiety, uh, mental conditions. So, uh, there’s studies showing that patients who engage in heat therapy saw improvements in their Hamilton depression rating. Yeah. Good stuff. When you go in there after workouts, great scientific evidence that it improves your conditioning response. So they stuck runners into the sauna for 30 minutes after their training sessions. And relative to people that didn’t do it, they went and performed later and saw these amazing increases in fitness capacity. Sauna users, the subjects in this study, uh, increased their time to exhaustion by 32% increase their plasma cell volume, 7% red blood cell volume 3%.
Brad: 20:58 So that’s kinda like doping, huh? Legal doping in the sauna. And of course these are markers of uh, improved endurance. Uh, and same thing. They did a study with cyclists who are going in there for uh, 30 minutes after their workouts and after just four sessions, they had an increase in plasma cell volume. This is the training effect that you work really hard to get out there and do a with hours and hours on the road. Yeah. Improved. Also improved heat dissipation, thermoregulation heart rate and cardiac stroke volume during exercise. Uh, there’s also some other research showing that if you get in there after a workout, it can alleviate muscle soreness the next day. And we have, uh, found this to be true. Anecdotally. Uh, Dr. Steven, uh, came, come across town to sit in the sauna and after a another crazy day, 17 mile run and report it the next morning, um, reduction in muscle soreness.
Brad: 21:55 Don’t know exactly, uh, what pathways are at work there to achieve this. But I think when you’re tight and stiff and inflamed, uh, from a workout and then you go sit in there and allow the, uh, the blood to flow and the sweat to flow, maybe do a few stretches I like to do in there. And of course you’re more flexible and limber in there than anywhere else. I think it has a nice lasting effect the next day to reduce that, uh, soreness factor. So as I alluded to earlier, my goal is to get the maximum benefits. The more is better mentality as applied to anything in life, right? Not right, but in the case of sauna, uh, yes, you want to stimulate those heat shock proteins and give yourself that wonderful hormetic stressor. So what I do is try to get that temperature as high as possible.
Brad: 22:41 And I’ve found when I run a double cycle on my Harvey, uh, unit and Harvey as the brand name from Finland that makes the sauna of heaters and actually they just merged with Almost Heaven saunas. So when I say the brand name, Almost Heaven saunas a, they’re now owned by Harvey. So a nice integrated product where they’re, uh, make manufacturers of the heater as well as the frame, the kit that you put together. So I cranked that puppy through two cycles. You see, it switches off after an hour, uh, for safety protection for the user. It’s not gonna stay on, uh, keeping that thing cranking forever. So if you fall asleep in there, pass out, pretty soon the thing’s going to cool down on its own. So I let it run through its first cycle. It gets up to about 175 and then I crank it up again and wait and I’ll get in there when it’s over.
Brad: 23:27 Uh, 200, I can get it up to two, 10 to 15 if I’m lucky. Yeah, that’s hot. And then what do I do when I step in immediately? 40 pushups and 40 deep squats and isn’t that fun? It’s like working out in Death Valley except for 80 degrees hotter than the hottest temperature ever recorded on the planet. So what I’m doing in that first few minutes in the sauna is I’m eliciting, uh, the sweat did come pouring out as soon as possible. It would probably happen after 10 or 15 minutes of just laying there on a bench. Right? You’re sitting in 212 degree weather. You’re going to start sweating. But I just short circuit that and make it an interesting little exercise dresser in there. Of course, uh, you’re listening to a podcast host, not your personal private physician. So let this be a disclaimer not to do stupid stuff that you hear from a podcast host without full medical clearance and assurances that you are cardiovascularly healthy and then ease into it and try something like 10 pushups instead of 40 and 40 out of the gate.
Brad: 24:29 And uh, be sensible about all the things I’m talking about here. But again, I’m just trying to get hot in there quickly. And then the wonderful thing is after doing that pretty strenuous, uh, back to back, a workout set, then I lie on the bench and almost immediately fall into this trance-like state where I’m getting warm, I’m still breathing hard, uh, but I’ve kind of turned the brain off and just lay in there and relax. It’s not really a nap. It’s hard to fall asleep in 210 degree temperatures, but it’s something in that, in between realm whether where the brain is just totally chill and it feels fantastic. I’ll stay in there for another 15 to 20 minutes. Uh, just ensuring that I’m sweating profusely to get maximum benefits from the experience.
Brad: 25:16 Now, uh, you might’ve heard about, uh, contrast therapy where you go from the cold tub into the sauna on back and forth, fire and ice. They call it a Laird Hamilton, Gabby Reese, big enthusiasts. They have fire, nice parties at their training compounds slash home and Malibu. saunas like a lot of fun. And if people come over, we’ll engage in that kind of fun stuff. But generally speaking, uh, I don’t really do that too often. I like to use the sauna as a standalone therapy as well as uh, the morning cold plunge and I’ve played around with it a little. It feels kind of interesting. Uh, basically the experiences when you jump into the cold tub at 36 degrees, it doesn’t feel that cold because your body temperature is so high from the sauna. And then you go into the sauna after a couple of minutes in the cold tub and doesn’t feel that hot. Uh, but what you get at the end, the net effect of let’s say six cycles back and forth or whatever you’re doing is you do feel very, very relaxed.
Brad: 26:13 But I’m just saying that personally, I like to use these things as standalone therapy. So just going in the sauna and even afterward I’ll take a warm shower, a regular temperature shower, and then just allow my body to naturally cool down to do that hard work to cool down, back to homeostasis afterward. So hopefully you have a good overview of the wonderful benefits. Maybe you’re compelled to at least go check out the website, almost heaven.com and see what they have to offer for home use sauna and kits. Uh, I believe there’s a discount at play or a free gift to play if you mentioned the Get Over Yourself podcasts. So, uh, inquire about that they have great customer service or for starters, uh, get down to your health club and try it out and uh, take it seriously. It’s not just a folly or an indulgence, it’s actually a wonderful therapeutic benefit and also a training effect for cardiovascular fitness and health. Thanks for listening.
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