University of Oulu

Tanjaniina Laukkanen, Jukka Lipponen, Setor K. Kunutsor, Francesco Zaccardi, Claudio Gil S. Araújo, Timo H. Mäkikallio, Hassan Khan, Peter Willeit, Earric Lee, Sanna Poikonen, Mika Tarvainen, Jari A. Laukkanen, Recovery from sauna bathing favorably modulates cardiac autonomic nervous system, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Volume 45, 2019, Pages 190-197, ISSN 0965-2299,

Recovery from sauna bathing favorably modulates cardiac autonomic nervous system

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Author: Laukkanen, Tanjaniina1,2; Lipponen, Jukka3; Kunutsor, Setor K.4,5;
Organizations: 1Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland
2Central Finland Health Care District, Department of Internal Medicine, Jyväskylä, Finland
3Department of Applied Physics, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland
4National Institute for Health Research Bristol Biomedical Research Centre, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
5Musculoskeletal Research Unit, Translational Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Learning & Research Building (Level 1), Southmead Hospital, Bristol, UK
6Exercise Medicine Clinic, CLINIMEX, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
7Division of Cardiology, Department of Internal Medicine, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
8Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, United States
9Department of Neurology, Medical University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
10Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
11Pihlajalinna Clinic, Jyväskylä, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.5 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2019
Publish Date: 2020-06-22


Objective: Sauna bathing is becoming a common activity in many countries and it has been linked to favorable health outcomes. However, there is limited data on the heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) responses to an acute sauna exposure.

Design: We conducted a single-group, longitudinal study utilizing a pre-post design to examine acute effects of sauna bathing on the autonomic nervous system as reflected by HRV. A total of 93 participants (mean [SD] age: 52.0 [8.8] years, 53.8% males) with cardiovascular risk factors were exposed to a single sauna session (duration: 30 min; temperature: 73 °C; humidity: 10–20%) and data on HRV variables were collected before, during and after sauna.

Results: Time and frequency-domain HRV variables were significantly modified (p < 0.001) by the single sauna session, with most of HRV variables tending to return near to baseline values after 30 min recovery. Resting HR was lower at the end of recovery (68/min) compared to pre-sauna (77/min). A sauna session transiently diminished the vagal component, whereas the cooling down period after sauna decreased low frequency power (p < 0.001) and increased high frequency power in HRV (p < 0.001), favorably modulating the autonomic nervous system balance.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that a session of sauna bathing induces an increase in HR. During the cooling down period from sauna bathing, HRV increased which indicates the dominant role of parasympathetic activity and decreased sympathetic activity of cardiac autonomic nervous system. Future randomized controlled studies are needed to show if HR and HRV changes underpins the long-term cardiovascular effects induced by regular sauna bathing.

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Series: Complementary therapies in medicine
ISSN: 0965-2299
ISSN-E: 1873-6963
ISSN-L: 0965-2299
Volume: 45
Pages: 190 - 197
DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.06.011
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3121 General medicine, internal medicine and other clinical medicine
Funding: This study was supported by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, Helsinki, Finland.
Copyright information: © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license