Good news for people who like to run! A little use of the sauna could go a long way towards enhancing your running endurance.
The physiological adaptations to sauna bathing could enhance endurance performance. We have therefore performed a cross-over study in which six male distance runners completed 3 wk of post-training sauna bathing and 3 wk of control training, with a 3 wk washout. During the sauna period, subjects sat in a humid sauna at 89.9+/-2.0 degrees C (mean+/-standard deviation) immediately post-exercise for 31+/-5 min on 12.7+/-2.1 occasions. The performance test was approximately 15 min treadmill run to exhaustion at the runner’s current best speed over 5 km. The test was performed on the 1st and 2nd day following completion of the sauna and control periods, and the times were averaged. Plasma, red-cell and total blood volume were measured via Evans blue dye dilution immediately prior to the first run to exhaustion for each period. Relative to control, sauna bathing increased run time to exhaustion by 32% (90% confidence limits 21-43%), which is equivalent to an enhancement of approximately 1.9% (1.3-2.4%) in an endurance time trial. Plasma and red-cell volumes increased by 7.1% (5.6-8.7%) and 3.5% (-0.8% to 8.1%) respectively, after sauna relative to control. Change in performance had high correlations with change in plasma volume (0.96, 0.76-0.99) and total blood volume (0.94, 0.66-0.99), but the correlation with change in red cell volume was unclear (0.48, -0.40 to 0.90). We conclude that 3 wk of post-exercise sauna bathing produced a worthwhile enhancement of endurance running performance, probably by increasing blood volume. (via.)
Some of you runners may, or may not realize this, but “blood doping” is a method some competitive endurance athletes have used to achieve an edge over other competitors. This basically entails boosting red blood cells, often through drugs like Erythropoietin (EPO) or via transfusion. Red blood cells are what carry oxygen throughout the body and thus give a competitive edge to someone who is using up a lot of oxygen very rapidly, such as during running. However, what this study is saying is that the “blood doping” effect can probably be achieved through sauna use. The best part is… it’s legal and not likely to be banned by any sports anytime soon.