Sauna for Heat Acclimation: Benefits and How to Do It

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Heat acclimation sauna is a technique that has been gaining popularity in recent years.

Interest in Heat Acclimation (Google Trends)

It involves exposing the body to high temperatures for a prolonged period to help it acclimate to heat stress.

The idea is that by regularly exposing the body to high temperatures, it will become more efficient at regulating its temperature, which can lead to numerous health benefits.

In this post, we’ll cover the key benefits of sauna heat acclimation and how to get started on this journey.

Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • Heat acclimation is the process by which the body adapts to high temperatures.
  • Sauna is one of the most effective ways to induce heat acclimation.
  • Regular exposure to high temperatures can lead to numerous health benefits.

Understanding Heat Acclimation

In simple terms, heat acclimation is a process of gradually exposing the body to higher temperatures

This leads to physiological adaptations that help the body cope with heat stress.

The process brings about a number of physiological adjustments, including a reduction in resting core body temperature, increased sweat rate, and increased blood volume.

Importance of Heat Acclimation

Heat acclimation has several benefits, including improved athletic performance, reduced risk of heat-related illness, and improved cardiovascular function.

It is especially important for athletes who compete in hot and humid environments, as it can help them maintain their performance and reduce the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Additionally, heat acclimation can help individuals tolerate hot weather better and reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses in daily life.

Research shows that heat acclimation can be achieved through various methods, including sauna use.

The Andrew Huberman Sauna Protocol is a popular method that involves gradually increasing the time spent in the sauna over several weeks.

Related: CO2 Tolerance Test: A Comprehensive Guide

Sauna and Heat Acclimation

Man in sauna for heat acclimation protocol

Sauna is a type of heat acclimation that involves sitting in a hot, dry environment for a certain amount of time.

In this section, we will discuss the role of saunas in heat acclimation and the different types of saunas.

Role of Sauna in Heat Acclimation

Studies have shown that sauna can increase plasma volume, reduce resting heart rate, and improve aerobic fitness.

Sauna can also prepare the body for exercise in hot environments.

This is because heat acclimation can improve exercise performance in hot conditions by reducing the body’s core temperature, heart rate, and sweat rate.

Different Types of Saunas

There are several different types of saunas, including traditional Finnish saunas, infrared saunas, and steam rooms.

Traditional Finnish saunas are the most common type of sauna and use dry heat to warm the body.

Infrared saunas use infrared light to heat the body, while steam rooms use moist heat to warm the body.

Each type of sauna has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Traditional Finnish saunas are the most well-studied and have been shown to improve cardiovascular health and immune function.

Infrared saunas are thought to be more effective at penetrating the skin and improving circulation, while steam rooms can be more relaxing and help clear the sinuses.

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How to Heat Acclimatize with Sauna

Below, we put together a one month plan based on the most recent science on this topic.

We recommend using a dry sauna.

Feel free to use this weekly guide and make adjustments as necessary so you are not overdoing the frequency or heat intensity at any point.

Listen to your body!

WeekFrequency (Sessions/Week)Duration per SessionTemperature SettingNotes
135-10 minutes160°FBegin with shorter sessions to assess tolerance. Stay hydrated.
23-410-15 minutes165°FGradually increase duration. Monitor body response.
34-515-20 minutes170°FIncrease frequency and duration as comfort allows.
4515-20 minutes175-180°FMaintain consistent exposure, focusing on hydration and relaxation.

Related: Sauna Cold Plunge Routine: A Powerful Recovery Protocol

Physiological Responses to Heat

Heat acclimation through sauna use results in numerous physiological adaptations.

These adaptations can be categorized into cardiovascular, thermoregulatory, and hormonal adaptations.

Cardiovascular Adaptations

During heat acclimation, the body undergoes cardiovascular adaptations to maintain adequate blood flow to the skin and muscles.

These adaptations include an increase in plasma volume, a decrease in resting heart rate, and an increase in stroke volume.

The increase in plasma volume is due to an increase in the production of the hormone aldosterone, which promotes sodium retention and water reabsorption in the kidneys.

Thermoregulatory Adaptations

Heat acclimation also results in thermoregulatory adaptations that improve the body’s ability to regulate its core temperature.

These adaptations include an earlier onset of sweating, an increase in sweat output, and a decrease in exercising and resting core temperature.

Additionally, heat acclimation can lead to an increase in the number of sweat glands and an increase in the sensitivity of sweat glands to the hormone acetylcholine.

Hormonal Adaptations

Heat acclimation can also result in hormonal adaptations that improve the body’s response to heat stress.

These adaptations include an increase in the production of heat shock proteins, which help protect cells from heat-induced damage, and an increase in the production of growth hormone, which can promote muscle growth and repair.

Benefits of Heat Acclimation through Sauna

Sauna sessions have been found to be an effective way to acclimate the body to heat stress, leading to various benefits for both performance and health.

Performance Enhancement

Heat acclimation through sauna has been shown to improve endurance performance by increasing plasma volume, which in turn increases cardiac output and oxygen delivery to the muscles.

Sauna use has also been found to increase the expression of heat shock proteins (HSPs), which protect against muscle damage and promote muscle growth.

Health and Longevity Benefits

Heat acclimation through sauna has been linked to a variety of health and longevity benefits.

For instance, sauna use has been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Sauna sessions have also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and enhance the immune system.

To maximize the benefits of heat acclimation through sauna, it is important to stay hydrated, moisturize the skin, and avoid alcohol and caffeine after a session.

Related Posts: What To Do After A Sauna to Maximize Health Benefits

Safety Measures and Precautions

When practicing heat acclimation in a sauna, it is important to take safety measures and precautions to prevent overheating and dehydration.

Identifying Overheating

It is important to recognize the signs of overheating, which can include dizziness, headache, nausea, and fatigue.

It is also important to monitor your heart rate during your sauna session, as a significantly elevated heart rate can indicate unsafe overheating.

Hydration and Electrolyte Balance

Proper hydration and electrolyte balance are essential for a safe and effective heat acclimation experience.

It is recommended to drink water before, during, and after your sauna session to maintain hydration.

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What is the recommended protocol for heat adaptation in a sauna?

Start with a sauna session of 10-15 minutes at 160-170°F and gradually increase the duration and temperature of your sessions, up to a maximum of 30 minutes at 190-200°F.

How long does it take to acclimate to hot weather for heat training?

It typically takes around two weeks of consistent heat training to acclimate to hot weather.

What is the best heat training protocol for triathlons?

The best heat training protocol for triathlons is the sauna protocol, which involves gradually increasing the duration and temperature of your sauna sessions over a period of several weeks.

What are the benefits of using an infrared sauna for heat training?

Infrared saunas are a popular option for heat training because they provide a more gentle and tolerable heat than traditional saunas.

How long does it typically take to acclimate to heat for running?

It typically takes around two weeks of consistent heat training to acclimate to heat for running.

Is it possible to build a tolerance to sauna heat over time?

Yes, regular sauna use can increase your heat tolerance by improving circulation, increasing sweating, and promoting the production of heat shock proteins.

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About the Author

Drew Wilkins is a fitness and nutrition expert with a Master's in Biokinesiology (emphasis in Sports Science) from the University of Southern California and over a decade of experience as a personal trainer, nutrition consultant, and wellness coach. An avid surfer and soccer player, he brings a unique perspective to his research, advocating for a balanced approach to health that includes physical fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being.

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