Purpose: Despite indications of positive effects of sauna (SAU) interventions, effects on performance recovery are unknown. The aim of the current study was to investigate acute effects of SAU bathing after an intensive training session on recovery of swim performance. Methods: In total, 20 competitive swimmers and triathletes (3 female and 17 male) with a minimum of 2 y of competition experience (national level or higher) participated in the study. Athletes completed an intensive training session followed by either a SAU bathing intervention or a placebo (PLAC) condition in a randomized order. SAU consisted of 3 × 8 min of SAU bathing at 80–85°C, whereas during PLAC, athletes applied a deidentified, pH-balanced massage oil while passively resting in a seated position. Prior to training, swimmers conducted a 4 × 50-m all-out swim test that was repeated on the following morning. Furthermore, subjective ratings of fatigue and recovery were measured. Results: Swimmers performed significantly worse after SAU (4 × 50-m pre–post difference: +1.69 s) than after PLAC (−0.66 s; P = .02), with the most pronounced decrease in the first 50 m (P = .04; +2.7%). Overall performance of 15 athletes deteriorated (+2.6 s). The subjective feeling of stress was significantly higher after SAU than after PLAC (P = .03). Conclusion: Based on published findings, the smallest substantial change in swimming performance is an increase in time of more than 1.2 s; thus, the observed reductions appear relevant for competitive swimmers. According to the current results, coaches and athletes should be careful with postexercise SAU if high-intensity training and/or competitions are scheduled on the following day.
Skorski, Schimpchen, and Meyer are with the Inst of Sport and Preventive Medicine, Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany. Pfeiffer is with the Inst of Sport Science, Johannes-Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany. Ferrauti and Kellmann are with the Faculty of Sport Science, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany. Kellmann is also with the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.
LaukkanenJA, LaukkanenT, KunutsorSK. Cardiovascular and other health benefits of sauna bathing: a review of the evidence. . 2018;93(8):1111–1121. PubMed ID: 30077204 doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2018.04.00830077204)| false
Mero A, Tornberg J, Mantykoski M, Puurtinen R. Effects of far-infrared sauna bathing on recovery from strength and endurance training sessions in men. Springerplus. 2015;4:321. PubMed ID: 26180741 doi:
MeroA, TornbergJ, MantykoskiM, PuurtinenR. Effects of far-infrared sauna bathing on recovery from strength and endurance training sessions in men. . 2015;4:321. PubMed ID: 26180741 doi:10.1186/s40064-015-1093-526180741)| false
Pilch W, Pokora I, Szyguta Z, et al. Effect of a single finnish sauna session on white blood cell profile and cortisol levels in athletes and non-athletes. J Hum Kinet. 2013;39:127–135. PubMed ID: 24511348 doi:
PilchW, PokoraI, SzygutaZ, et al. Effect of a single finnish sauna session on white blood cell profile and cortisol levels in athletes and non-athletes. . 2013;39:127–135. PubMed ID: 24511348 doi:10.2478/hukin-2013-007524511348)| false
Hellstrom F, Roatta S, Thunberg J, Passatore M, Djupsjobacka M. Responses of muscle spindles in feline dorsal neck muscles to electrical stimulation of the cervical sympathetic nerve. Exp Brain Res. 2005;165(3):328–342. PubMed ID: 15883803 doi:
Cernych M, Baranauskiene N, Vitkauskiene A, Satas A, Brazaitis M. Accelerated muscle contractility and decreased muscle steadiness following sauna recovery do not induce greater neuromuscular fatigability during sustained submaximal contractions. Hum Mov Sci. 2019;63:10–19. PubMed ID: 30481721 doi:
Soo J, Tang G, Arjunan SP, Pang J, Aziz AR, Ihsan M. The effects of lower body passive heating combined with mixed-method cooling during half-time on second-half intermittent sprint performance in the heat. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2019;119(8):1885–1899. PubMed ID: 31222380 doi:
SooJ, TangG, ArjunanSP, PangJ, AzizAR, IhsanM. The effects of lower body passive heating combined with mixed-method cooling during half-time on second-half intermittent sprint performance in the heat. . 2019;119(8):1885–1899. PubMed ID: 31222380 doi:10.1007/s00421-019-04177-831222380)| false
NässiA, FerrautiA, MeyerT, PfeifferM, KellmannM. Development of two short measures for recovery and stress in sport. . 2017;17(7):894–903. PubMed ID: 28463598 doi:10.1080/17461391.2017.131818028463598)| false
Kellmann M, Kölling S, Hitzschke B. Das Akutmaß und die Kurzskala zru Erfassung von Erholung und Beanspruchung im Sport—Manual (The Acute Measure and the Short Scale of Recovery and Stress for Sports—Manual). Hellenthal, Germany: Sportverlag Strauß; 2016.
Winchester R, Turner LA, Thomas K, et al. Observer effects on the rating of perceived exertion and affect during exercise in recreationally active males. Percept Mot Skills. 2012;115(1):213–227. PubMed ID: 23033758 doi:
WinchesterR, TurnerLA, ThomasK, et al. Observer effects on the rating of perceived exertion and affect during exercise in recreationally active males. . 2012;115(1):213–227. PubMed ID: 23033758 doi:10.2466/25.07.05.PMS.115.4.213-22723033758)| false
Skorski S, Faude O, Urhausen A, Kindermann W, Meyer T. Intensity control in swim training by means of the individual anaerobic threshold. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(12):3304–3311. PubMed ID: 22293679 doi:
SkorskiS, FaudeO, UrhausenA, KindermannW, MeyerT. Intensity control in swim training by means of the individual anaerobic threshold. . 2012;26(12):3304–3311. PubMed ID: 22293679 doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31824b601422293679)| false
Higgins TR, Greene DA, Baker MK. Effects of cold water immersion and contrast water therapy for recovery from team sport: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res. 2017;31(5):1443–1460. PubMed ID: 27398915 doi:
HigginsTR, GreeneDA, BakerMK. Effects of cold water immersion and contrast water therapy for recovery from team sport: a systematic review and meta-analysis. . 2017;31(5):1443–1460. PubMed ID: 27398915 doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001559)| false
BroatchJR, PetersenA, BishopDJ. Postexercise cold water immersion benefits are not greater than the placebo effect. . 2014;46(11):2139–2147. PubMed ID: 24674975 doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000348)| false