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Aerobic exercise improves cardiorespiratory fitness, a measure of the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to skeletal muscles during sustained physical activity. Findings from a study in Finland indicate that good cardiorespiratory fitness combined with frequent sauna use may work in a synergistic fashion to reduce cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.

Sauna use exposes the body to extreme temperatures that stress the body, eliciting physiological responses that are remarkably similar to those experienced during moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise. Prospective studies conducted in Finland revealed that men who used the sauna four to seven times per week were 50 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular-related causes and 40 percent less likely to die from all causes of premature death.

In a separate analysis, data from the Finish cohort also demonstrated that a high level of cardiorespiratory fitness or frequent sauna use were both independently associated with reduced cardiovascular-related mortality and all-cause mortality. In addition, cardiorespiratory fitness in combination with frequent sauna bathing (three to seven sessions per week) had a synergistic effect on lowering cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. The strongest reductions in mortality were found in people with high cardiorespiratory fitness and high frequent sauna bathing, followed by high cardiorespiratory fitness and low frequent sauna bathing, and then low cardiorespiratory fitness and high frequent sauna bathing.

Sauna bathing is safe for most adults and can be practiced before or after aerobic exercise to augment the beneficial effects of exercise.

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