Answered by on Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Skip the sauna after your workout. You're already dehydrated from all that sweating. "Sitting in a sauna will compound the fluid loss associated with exercise," explains exercise physiologist Malachy McHugh, Ph.D. Besides, says McHugh, a sauna provides very little physiological benefit post-exercise. "The soonest you can take a sauna is an hour after your workout—and even then, it's better not to," adds Lewis Maharam, M.D., a New York City sports medicine specialist and president of the Greater New York Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine. "When you exercise, blood is shunted [that is, directed] to the part of the body that's being used—in runners, for example, it's the legs," explains Dr. Maharam. Once you stop moving, blood pools in your limbs. "So the best thing you can do after exercising is walk to cool down," says Dr. Maharam. Conversely, the combination of sitting still and extreme heat right after an intense physical activity could potentially lead to a heart attack. (A sauna—or even a hot shower—further dilates blood vessels, depriving your heart of blood.) If you want to sit and sweat, do it on a day when you're not working out, or combine your time in the sauna with stretching (the heat will make your muscles more pliable). But if you're pregnant, or have heart disease, hypertension or circulation problems, warns Dr. Maharam, stay out of the sauna entirely.