Are saunas best for muscle recovery?

Last Modified: 11/02/2022


This post was written by Emily Mize, ATC, certified athletic trainer, Parkview Sports Medicine.

From the rise of infrared to the traditional hot box at the local gym, everywhere you look people are talking about steaming up their post-workout routines. While the benefits of saunas are many, for this post, we will be strictly focusing on the traditional model when used for muscle recovery.  

In a 2020 article by Putra, Setijono and Mintarto, the use of saunas or aromatherapy for recovery were compared to that of a warm water recovery. These authors looked at pre- and post-workout levels of lactic acid in the body to determine the better of the two options.

After looking at different models and seeing how much lactic acid decreased by using one form of recovery versus the other, they were able to decide which would be the better recovery tool.

Through their research, they discovered the following results:

Warm Water Recovery
  • After 5 minutes: lactic acid levels decreased from 9.36 mMol / l to 3.75mMol / l
  • After 10 minutes: lactic acid levels decreased from 3.75 mMol / l to 2.70 mMol / l
Aromatherapy Sauna Recovery
  • After 5 minutes: lactic acid decreased from 9.36 mMol / L to 5.28 mMol / l
  • After 10 minutes: lactic acid levels decreased from 5.28 mMol / l to 3.12 mMol / l 

While both can benefit muscles after a workout, when strictly looking at lactic acid levels in the body for post activity recovery, the use of a warm water therapy recovery would be more beneficial to the daily athlete.



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