Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Acute effects of sauna bathing on cardiovascular function


Emerging evidence suggests beneficial effects of sauna bathing on the cardiovascular system. However, the effects of sauna bathing on parameters of cardiovascular function and blood-based biomarkers are uncertain. We aimed to investigate whether sauna bathing induces changes in arterial stiffness, blood pressure (BP), and several blood-based biomarkers. We conducted an experimental study including 102 participants (mean age (SD): 51.9 (9.2) years, 56% male) who had at least one cardiovascular risk factor. Participants were exposed to a single sauna session (duration: 30 min; temperature: 73 °C; humidity: 10–20%). Cardiovascular as well as blood-based parameters were collected before, immediately after, and after 30-min recovery. Mean carotid–femoral pulse wave velocity was 9.8 (2.4) m/s before sauna and decreased to 8.6 (1.6) m/s immediately after sauna (p < 0.0001). Mean systolic BP decreased after sauna exposure from 137 (16) to 130 (14) mmHg (p < 0.0001) and diastolic BP from 82 (10) to 75 (9) mmHg (p < 0.0001). Systolic BP after 30 min recovery remained lower compared to pre-sauna levels. There were significant changes in hematological variables during sauna bathing. Plasma creatinine levels increased slightly from sauna until recovery period, whereas sodium and potassium levels remained constant. This study demonstrates that sauna bathing for 30 min has beneficial effects on arterial stiffness, BP, and some blood-based biomarkers. These findings may provide new insights underlying the emerging associations between sauna bathing and reduced risk of cardiovascular outcomes.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1


  1. Perasalo J. Traditional use of the sauna for hygiene and health in Finland. Ann Clin Res. 1988;20:220–3.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Valtakari P. The sauna and bathing in different countries. Ann Clin Res. 1988;20:230–5.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Ohori T, Nozawa T, Ihori H, Shida T, Sobajima M, Matsuki A, et al. Effect of repeated sauna treatment on exercise tolerance and endothelial function in patients with chronic heart failure. Am J Cardiol. 2012;109:100–4.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Leppäluoto J, Tuominen M, Väänänen A, Karpakka J, Vuori J. Some cardiovascular and metabolic effects of repeated sauna bathing. Acta Physiol Scand. 1986;128:77–81.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Brunt VE, Eymann TM, Francisco MA, Howard MJ, Minson CT. Passive heat therapy improves cutaneous microvascular function in sedentary humans via improved nitric oxide-dependent dilation. J Appl Physiol. 2016;121:716–23.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Brunt VE, Howard MJ, Francisco MA, Ely BR, Minson CT. Passive heat therapy improves endothelial function, arterial stiffness and blood pressure in sedentary humans. J Physiol. 2016;594:5329–42.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Imamura M, Biro S, Kihara T, Yoshifuku S, Takasaki K, Otsuji Y, et al. Repeated thermal therapy improves impaired vascular endothelial function in patients with coronary risk factors. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2001;38:1083–8.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Giannetti N, Juneau M, Arsenault A, Behr MA, Grégoire J, Tessier M, et al. Sauna-induced myocardial ischemia in patients with coronary artery disease. Am J Med. 1999;107:228–33.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Gayda M, Paillard F, Sosner P, Juneau M, Garzon M, Gonzalez M, et al. Effects of sauna alone and postexercise sauna baths on blood pressure and hemodynamic variables in patients with untreated hypertension. J Clin Hypertens. 2012;14:553–60.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Kunutsor S. Ambient temperature or seasonal variations in blood pressure: how important is this in sub-Saharan Africa? Ethn Dis. 2010;20:1.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Kunutsor SK, Powles JW. The effect of ambient temperature on blood pressure in a rural West African adult population: a cross-sectional study. Cardiovasc J Afr. 2010;21:17–20.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  12. Laukkanen T, Khan H, Zaccardi F, Laukkanen JA. Association between sauna bathing and fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality events. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175:542–8.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Zaccardi F, Laukkanen T, Willeit P, Kunutsor SK, Kauhanen J, Laukkanen JA. Sauna bathing and incident hypertension: a prospective cohort study. Am J Hypertens. 2017;30:1120–5.

  14. Laukkanen T, Kunutsor S, Kauhanen J, Laukkanen JA. Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged Finnish men. Age Ageing. 2017;46:245–9.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Kukkonen-Harjula K, Kauppinen K. Health effects and risks of sauna bathing. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2006;65:195–205.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Hannuksela ML, Ellahham S. Benefits and risks of sauna bathing. Am J Med. 2001;110:118–26.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Crandall CG, González-Alonso J. Cardiovascular function in the heat-stressed human. Acta Physiol. 2010;199:407–23.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Hillebrand S, Gast KB, de Mutsert R, Swenne CA, Jukema JW, Middeldorp S, et al. Heart rate variability and first cardiovascular event in populations without known cardiovascular disease: meta-analysis and dose-response meta-regression. Europace. 2013;15:742–9.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. Lietava J, Vohnout B, Valent D, Celko J. Comparison of hemodynamics during hyperthermal immersion and exercise testing in apparently healthy females aged 50-60 years. Ital Heart J. 2004;5:511–6.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Stanley J, Halliday A, D’Auria S, Buchheit M, Leicht AS. Effect of sauna-based heat acclimation on plasma volume and heart rate variability. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015;115:785–94.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Salonen JT. Is there a continuing need for longitudinal epidemiologic research? The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Ann Clin Res. 1988;20:46–50.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Laukkanen JA, Laaksonen D, Lakka TA, Savonen K, Rauramaa R, Mäkikallio T, et al. Determinants of cardiorespiratory fitness in men aged 42 to 60 years with and without cardiovascular disease. Am J Cardiol. 2009;103:1598–604.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. Lakka TA, Venäläinen JM, Rauramaa R, Salonen R, Tuomilehto J, Salonen JT. Relation of leisure-time physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness to the risk of acute myocardial infarction. N Engl J Med. 1994;330:1549–54.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Tomlinson LA. Methods for assessing arterial stiffness: technical considerations. Curr Opin Nephrol Hypertens. 2012;21:655–60.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Van Bortel LM, Laurent S, Boutouyrie P, Chowienczyk P, Cruickshank JK, De Backer T, et al. Expert consensus document on the measurement of aortic stiffness in daily practice using carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity. J Hypertens. 2012;30:445–8.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. Wiesel J, Arbesfeld B, Schechter D. Comparison of the Microlife blood pressure monitor with the Omron blood pressure monitor for detecting atrial fibrillation. Am J Cardiol. 2014;114:1046–8.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Salvi P, Lio G, Labat C, Ricci E, Pannier B, Benetos A. Validation of a new non-invasive portable tonometer for determining arterial pressure wave and pulse wave velocity: the PulsePen device. J Hypertens. 2004;22:2285–93.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Joly L, Perret-Guillaume C, Kearney-Schwartz A, Salvi P, Mandry D, Marie PY, et al. Pulse wave velocity assessment by external noninvasive devices and phase-contrast magnetic resonance imaging in the obese. Hypertension. 2009;54:421–6.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  29. Salvi P, Palombo C, Salvi GM, Labat C, Parati G, Benetos A. Left ventricular ejection time, not heart rate, is an independent correlate of aortic pulse wave velocity. J Appl Physiol. 2013;115:1610–7.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. Redberg RF. Health benefits of sauna bathing. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175:548.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Thomas KN, van Rij AM, Lucas SJ, Cotter JD. Lower-limb hot-water immersion acutely induces beneficial hemodynamic and cardiovascular responses in peripheral arterial disease and healthy, elderly controls. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2017;312:R281–91.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Franklin SS. Beyond blood pressure: arterial stiffness as a new biomarker of cardiovascular disease. J Am Soc Hypertens. 2008;2:140–51.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  33. Schoffstall JE, Branch JD, Leutholtz BC, Swain DE. Effects of dehydration and rehydration on the one-repetition maximum bench press of weight-trained males. J Strength Cond Res. 2001;15:102–8.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


We sincerely thank Timo Harvia and the staff of Harvia Oy for sauna test facilities of the research and the subjects for their dedicated participation in the study.


This study was supported by the Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, Helsinki, Finland. Collaborators of the study project were Harvia Oy, Velha Oy, Pihlajalinna Clinic, Fintravel Oy, Finnish Sauna Culture Society and University of Eastern Finland.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jari A. Laukkanen.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Electronic supplementary material

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Laukkanen, T., Kunutsor, S.K., Zaccardi, F. et al. Acute effects of sauna bathing on cardiovascular function. J Hum Hypertens 32, 129–138 (2018).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links