This article is Part Three of our four-part series on the extraordinary effects of hyperthermic conditioning--or heat acclimation--through sauna use on athletic performance and general health. If this series doesn't convince you that a sauna should be a regular part of your health regimen, nothing will! We believe this information is so important, that we are featuring the series on both our Saunas US and Saunas Canada sites.
This series focuses on and breaks down the information provided by Dr. Rhonda Patrick in her YouTube video "Hyperthermic Conditioning for Hypertrophy, Endurance, and Neurogenesis". See the full video pasted below. Throughout the article, we will direct you to specific points in the video so you can jump straight there.
Hyperthermic Conditioning / Heat Acclimation Through Sauna Use
Heat acclimation--or hyperthermic conditioning--through regular sauna use can have profound effects on health and athletic performance. Specifically, in the following areas:
- increasing endurance capacity
- increasing muscle mass
- improving brain function, including neurogenesis (the creation of new brain cells)
- causing the effect known as "Runner's High"
Refer to 1:08 in the video.
The Effects of Heat Acclimation on Brain Function (8:05)
The following effects occur during hyperthermic conditioning through regular sauna use:
- Neurogenesis is increased. Neurogenesis is the creation of new brain cells.
- There is improvement in learning and memory. The brain's ability to learn new things and retain memories increases.
- Focus is improved. The ability to sustain concentration during a mental task is increased.
What Happens in the Brain During Sauna Use (8:14)
Regular sauna use causes a 3-fold increase in norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is the hormone and neurotransmitter most responsible for focus and attention and other cognitive functions. The increase in norepinephrine levels means a greater ability to focus and pay attention, as well as an increased capacity for storing information for later use (memory).
Norepinephrine is often given in drug form to treat ADHD, so it is suggested that increasing the levels more naturally through regular sauna use can relieve symptoms of ADHD and similar disorders.
Levels of the hormone prolactin are also increased, by a whopping 10-fold. Prolactin encourages myelin growth. Myelination is the formation of myelin around nerve cells. This process enables faster transmission of information and allows for more complex brain functions. More prolactin = more myelin growth = faster, more complex "executive" thought processes that exhibit as improved planning, decision-making, and reasoning skills, as well as improved impulse control and self-discipline.
Read This Part--It is Extra Amazing (9:14)
The stress of the heat during sauna use increases the amount of brain-derived neurotophic factors (BDNF) released (when combined with exercise). BDNF is amazing stuff. Increased BDNF levels do the following:
- increase the growth of brain cells
- increase the survival rate of existing brain cells (they live longer)
- improve learning and retention
- reduce depression and anxiety related to early life events
- improve the ability of muscles to repair themselves throughout the body
That's pretty amazing stuff.
Be sure to check out the entire series on heat acclimation/hyperthermic conditioning: