Sauna Benefits Deep Dive and Optimal Use with Dr. Rhonda Patrick & MedCram

Sauna and dose-dependent health effects

In this video, Kyle Allred of MedCram discusses the benefits of sauna with Dr. Rhonda Patrick. Dr. Patrick is the founder of Found My Fitness. She has done extensive research on saunas and wrote a review article in Experimental Gerontology on it.   There has been much research out of Finland as there is a large proportion of the population there that has personal saunas. The observational population-based studies from Finland show that sauna usage has a dose-dependent health effect. Sauna use itself is associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, sudden cardiac death, stroke, and dementia. The more frequently an individual uses a sauna, the more robust the health benefits are. An example is people who use saunas two to three times a week have a 22% less likelihood of dying from sudden cardiac death compared to single-use a week. However, individuals who use the sauna four to seven times a week have a decreased risk of 63% compared to once-a-week usage. 

Sauna and exercise

Dr. Patrick notes that sauna use is mimicking moderate intense aerobic cardiovascular exercise. Many of the same physiologic responses seen in exercise such as elevated core body temperature, elevated heart rate, sweating, and lower heart rate and blood pressure after exercise can be seen in sauna usage.  Sauna use also has effects on the brain and improves blood flow to the brain. Observation studies here have shown also a dose-dependent effect on the reduction in dementia risk. Using the sauna two to three times a week decreased the risk of dementia by 20% compared to single-use per week. Four to seven times a week of using the sauna had a 60-66% reduction in dementia risk compared to single-use a week. It is not entirely clear as to the mechanism by which sauna use decreased neurodegenerative disease.  However, there is a 40% risk reduction from all causes of mortality when using the sauna four to seven times a week compared to single-use per week.

Sauna as a lifestyle factor

Many lifestyle factors including exercise, medication, sleep, and a healthy diet are known to be helpful in longevity. Sauna use also appears to have benefits. The purpose of lifestyle factors is to try and extend the “healthy years” of one’s life. By diminishing risk factors for dementia, Parkinson’s, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, it allows a person to live healthier and well for a  longer period of time.  

Saunas and body proteins

Sauna use also has effects on heat shock proteins which can aid in preventing the degradation of proteins in the body. Usage can also cause the elevation of endorphins in the body. There is some ongoing research that has found raising a person’s core body temperature 1-2 degrees can give some improvement with depressive symptoms that can last up to 6 weeks after using a sauna a single time. Ongoing research is happening in this area to further analyze this finding. 

Sauna use has also suggested it can decrease C-reactive protein ( a marker for inflammation), increase IL-6 which can cause an anti-inflammatory response, and increase IL-10  which is also an anti-inflammatory marker. There are suggestions based on findings in some of these studies that sauna use may be doing some immune modulation; however, much further research is needed.   

Limitations to the studies on saunas include that these are observational studies so causality can’t be established. However, the studies suggest that increased frequency of sauna use and longer duration of staying in the sauna may have greater effects in a dose-dependent relationship.  Further research is ongoing. 



Association Between Sauna Bathing and Fatal Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality Events (JAMA Internal Medicine) |…

Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged Finnish men (Age and Ageing) |…

Association of High Cardiovascular Fitness and the Rate of Adaptation to Heat Stress (Biomed Res Int.) |…

Sauna bathing reduces the risk of stroke in Finnish men and women (Neurology) |…

Effect of post-exercise sauna bathing on the endurance performance of competitive male runners |…

2022 World Happiness Report (Helliwell et al.) | https://happiness-report.s3.amazonaws…

Clinical trial in progress on sauna and depression run by Dr. Ashley Mason |…


Sauna Topics covered in video:

00:00:00 – Intro to Saunas and Rhonda Patrick

00:01:04 – Summary of sauna health benefits (lowers dementia, cardiovascular, depression risk, etc.)

00:07:09 – A review article vs primary research and Dr. Jari Laukkanen

00:07:58 – More on cardiovascular benefits of sauna

00:10:48 – Does sauna use lower hypertension risk?

00:11:56 – Sauna use may improve fitness and endurance

00:14:48 – Can sauna use lower Alzheimers and dementia risk?

00:16:43 – What are heat shock proteins?

00:19:18 – Dr. Patrick’s research on amyloid-beta 42 / heat shock proteins

00:20:30 – How Rhonda Patrick became interested in Saunas

00:22:20 – Endorphins, opiate receptors, depression, and sauna use

00:26:36 – Sauna associated with lower inflammatory markers

00:27:14 – Interleukin 6 (IL-6) and sauna use

00:29:20 – Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neuroplasticity

00:32:01 – More cellular repair mechanisms (NRF2) and hormesis

00:34:00 – Eustress and intermittent fasting

00:37:38 – Sauna and muscle atrophy

00:39:54 – Excretion of heavy metals and toxins through sweat

00:41:58 – Heart rate variability and sauna use

00:43:30 – Sauna mimics moderate-intensity exercise

00:47:32 – What Rhonda Patrick does in sauna

00:49:22 – Countries / cultures utilizing hyperthermia

00:51:34 – Infrared sauna benefits vs. traditional Finnish sauna (and waon therapy) 

00:55:39 – Details about Rhonda Patrick’s sauna routine (temp., duration, dry vs. humid etc.)

01:01:43 – Utilizing sauna to extend a workout

01:02:33 – Can a long hot shower or bath mimic sauna benefits?

01:03:27 – Hydration before and after sauna bathing

01:04:36 – Cold exposure after sauna use?

01:06:24 – How to tell if in the sauna for too long?

01:08:10 – Contraindications/people who shouldn’t use sauna

01:12:28 – Continuous glucose monitors and sauna

01:14:25 – Limitations of current sauna research

01:18:06 – More on Finland and saunas

01:18:50 – More on heat shock proteins

01:19:46 – Closing thoughts 

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