03 Jan Exercise Recovery
Have you ever wondered why gyms have steam rooms? It’s because exercise and steam go hand in hand. Steam showers offer tremendous benefits to seasoned athletes and occasional gym goers alike. Your exercise routine may include stretching, lifting weights, and using a variety of cardio machines, but your workout isn’t necessarily done when you step off the treadmill or stair climber. To seal in the effects of your efforts and prepare for your cool down, be sure to stop by the steam room before you continue with your day.
Since you lose fluids through perspiration during exercise, be sure to drink plenty of water both before and after your post-workout steam shower.
Taking care of your muscles is one great reason to enjoy a steam after your workout. When you exercise, “tiny tears form in the muscles that help them grow bigger and stronger as they heal,” says exercise physiologist Tommy Boone. Don’t be discouraged by the thought of your muscles tearing, or by the soreness you may experience after a workout. “Soreness only means there are changes occurring in those muscles,” Boone says. The important thing is that your muscles get adequate rest after exercise. As certified personal trainer Randy Herring tells us, “following a workout, your body’s priority is to recover from the systematic stress and fatigue incurred in training.” He says that the two- to four-hour window immediately after exercise is one of the most important times for recuperation—the perfect opportunity to enjoy a steam shower.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common causes of muscle pain are tension, stress, overuse, and minor injuries. Certified strength and conditioning specialist Matt Weik says, “The steam helps relax stiff joints and muscles after workouts and can help with the recovery process.” Also, if you’re someone who has suffered from sports injuries in the past, the steam room could assist with your journey back to the gym. According to Weik, a visit to the steam room can “alleviate pain due to sports injury” and also “prevent injuries” in the future.
Take a Breath
While you may not give much thought to your breathing on a regular basis, when exercising, your inhales and exhales suddenly take the spotlight. When breathing normally, your lungs take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide, and your heart then pumps the oxygen to your muscles. According to a 2016 article from the educational journal Breathe:
When you exercise and your muscles work harder, your body uses more oxygen and produces more carbon dioxide. To cope with this extra demand, your breathing has to increase from about 15 times a minute (12 litres of air) when you are resting, up to about 40–60 times a minute (100 litres of air) during exercise. Your circulation also speeds up to take the oxygen to the muscles so that they can keep moving.
For this reason, good respiratory health is of the utmost importance when it comes to working out.
So what does this have to do with steam? As it turns out, steam showers can have a positive effect on your respiratory health. “The heat from the steam room opens up your airways which alleviates congestion and improves your breathing,” say the professionals at Sport Aston, Aston University in the UK.
As if you didn’t already have enough reasons to hop in the steam shower after a workout, exercise physiologist and author Tom Holland offers one more: as a well-deserved reward. “Sometimes there’s nothing better after a hard workout than taking a sauna or a steam,” Holland says. “So I recommend using either of them to decompress and unwind after a workout. Consider it a reward for a job well done.”