Deliberate Heat Exposure

Deliberate Heat Exposure - The Longevity Lab

Just like the cold exposure we discuss on another page, heat exposure needs to be deliberate, rather than just randomly overheating when the air conditioning doesn’t work. My Mum used to use the sauna at the gym. Always fascinated by the musty smell and the sharp heat on my legs where the towel slipped. The sizzle of the water onto the coals. Ski resorts have saunas, is it just to get warm after a cold day on the snow? We have tried traditional saunas and infrared. Initially it gave us a sense of relaxation and well being, but the benefits apparently are much more than this.

Benefits of Deliberate Heat Exposure

We have found it fascinating to learn from experts ways in which deliberate heat exposure can have positive effects on both our bodies and brains. We use it in our quest for longevity, general health, improvements in mood, changes in hormone levels, together with performance and recovery whilst exercising. There is lots of science behind it, which you can follow up on our references page, the Hubermann lab being the most engaging. 

There are specific protocols depending on what your specific goals are. He outlines three protocols that use deliberate heat exposure as an immensely effective way to enhance overall health, mood, and the reason we started our personal research journey; longevity.

There are a myriad of avenues to try deliberate heat exposure, namely; hot baths, steam & dry saunas, hot spas and hot showers. You could also layer yourself up with warm clothing when you exercise. Find a way that works with your lifestyle and budget. We have tried hot baths, saunas both infrared and traditional. Whilst travelling we are very keen to find the sauna in the hotel in the evening to relax and wind down after a long trek or bike ride. Our body temperature naturally fluctuates throughout the day, in accordance with our circadian rhythm, so using the sauna or having a hot bath at night helps with triggering your body’s natural ability to cool down after heat, promoting sleep.

It is very important to stay hydrated. It is recommended by experts that you drink 500 millilitres for every ten minutes of exposure to heat in the sauna. 

Please be careful with heat, despite the immense benefits that may be derived, you must proceed with caution. Heat can be very dangerous and you must hydrate. I’m sure we have all burnt ourselves at some point or another. Take it slowly, gradually increasing temperatures is often a good way. Saunas are not advised for people under 16, pregnant women, or men trying to conceive as it may have an impact on sperm count. Hyperthermia (abnormally high body temperature) and dehydration are always possible, so proceed with caution.

Deliberate Heat Exposure- The Longevity Lab
Sauna In Andorra. In many countries across the world, saunas are a popular way to incorporate deliberate heat exposure into their lifestyles.
Improvements in cardiovascular health.
Reduction in “all-cause mortality”

Heat has been demonstrated in studies to trigger similar mechanisms in participants’ brain and bodies, to being physically engaged in cardiovascular exercise such as increases in their heart rates and blood flow. This has been seen together with vasodilation, or expansion of blood vessels as participants’ bodies regulate their temperature in order to cool down.  

Improvements in mood

Saunas have been used for centuries in Scandinavia, users often finding that their moods improve when using them regularly. This has been identified as occurring due to the body’s natural release of dynorphins, an initial discomfort or agitation, that biochemically enhances the effect of endorphins on our body.  

Improvements in overall health & response to stress

Hormesis is a mild stimulating stress that is designed to help our bodies adapt positively. It presents in a variety of forms, heat being one of them. Studies have discovered that decreased cortisol levels may occur as a result of regular sauna use. Further, regular sauna use has been linked to enhancement of DNA repair/longevity pathways; and increase the activation of unique heat-dependent molecular mechanisms, known as heat shock proteins, which monitor and may repair cell protein structures, essential for longevity and wellbeing. 

Increases in production of natural growth hormone

While we are asleep, our amazing bodies release growth hormones, unfortunately at a decreasing rate as we age.   It is needed to stimulate muscle growth, repair tissue, improve metabolism and strengthen bones. Use of saunas occasionally, following certain protocols involving timing, fasting and alternating with cold exposure, has been seen to markedly boost the release of growth hormone.