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Real Life Nutrition Questions Answered

Real Life Fitness Questions Answered

Emma Brown

Janet Aylott

Kelly Marshall
Fitness Consultant


Are the claimed benefits about saunas true?

Hi Kelly,

Yesterday I had an hour long session at the gym, but in the last few minutes on the running machine I managed to pull a muscle in my left leg. My friends were all going for a short swim after, so I thought some more supported exercise like swimming might support it - it was ok, but of course, still hurt.

After our swim, we went to the sauna for about 15 minutes. It felt great. My leg didn't hurt after that.

What I wonder is, are the benefits of saunas people claim true? I found this website - http://www.pureinsideout.com/benefits-of-sauna.html - which gives me the impression you can detoxify and burn 300 calories and relax all at the same time!

Is this too good to be true? Was it the sauna that 'healed' my muscle ache, or was it just time? I admit it still hurt a little bit afterwards, but only once I was walking around half an hour later.



Our expert says...

Hi Martha,

Saunas are effective for reasons similar to that of what the website you mentioned, in terms of mental and physical relaxation, blood circulation and skin cleansing. The weight loss element, however, is often slightly skewed in the way it is suggested. As you sweat you lose fluid from the body and this leads to a loss of weight from sweat loss. This however isn't a 'true' occurrence of weight loss because dehydration isn't a good thing and the weight is a false positive that is returned immediately as you re-hydrate with food and water.

Being in a sauna burns calories like sitting on a bus, going for a gentle stroll etc. We burn calories all the time but in a sauna the particular speed of calorie burning closely resembles that of very low calorie-demanding movements so I strongly suggest you don't consider it as a significantly contributing calorie-burning activity.

With relation to your leg it sounds like you may have experienced a minor grade 1 tear (which is a very small muscle spasm/strain/tear). The reason the sauna would have aided its recovery, relates to the relaxation the muscles experience at higher temperatures and also as that was when you rested it from exercise.

It can help muscles relax and prevent muscle stiffness/soreness but it isn't a significant healer as such, so be aware you may still have a susceptibility in the muscle(s) on your left leg that may re-emerge. If this occurs I strongly encourage you to seek advice from a trainer on effective warm-up and specific flexibility movements you can do as a preparation before going into impact exercise like running. If the ache was to get worse you would need to get sports massage to realign the muscle fibres and breakdown any scar tissue formed from your injury.

Hope this helps


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