Nearly every health club has a sauna or a steam room, and if you aren't using it, you may want to start. While avoiding the hot tub makes sense (despite gyms' best efforts to keep them clean, gross) don't avoid heat treatments completely: they can get you closer to your goals.

Steam rooms and saunas only differ by the type of heat they emit. Saunas produce a dry heat, while steam rooms use steam, or wet heat. Both have the same benefits and draw backs, it's just personal preference (although the wet heat of steam rooms can help your breathing if you're experiencing chest congestion.) 

Hitting the sauna after your workout has been shown to help relieve sore muscles, painful arthritis, and the symptoms of asthma. It also helps with chronic fatigue, and flushes toxins from your body. Plus, it just feels oh-so good.

Heat also makes your soft tissues more pliable, making hot environments the perfect place to work on your flexibility. If you've ever done hot yoga, you know heat can be intense. In fact, if you've tried hot yoga and couldn't take the heat (ha!) the sauna may be the perfect lower-intensity substitute. Since you aren't moving as much, you can get a lot of the same benefits of a hot yoga class without the panic with a little gentle stretching in the sauna.

 There are some rules: listen to your body, go by how you feel and drink plenty of water before, during, and afterward. Limit your sessions to 20 minutes and always make sure it's the last stop during your workout.

by Kelly Turner

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