The benefits of saunas : let’s talk heart and heat
The climate has always been a hot topic in Quebec. In summer we celebrate the weather with terraces and festivals. In winter, we try to escape it by flying down south or by treating ourselves to cocooning days at the spa. Often coveted, the heat is omnipresent in the hearts of Quebecers. As we are proud supporters of saunas, we sought to learn more about the positive effects of these types of facilities. We called upon Daniel Gagnon, a researcher at the Montreal Heart Institute Center to discuss the science behind the impact of heat on the heart.
1. How did you come to study the positive effects of heat on the body?
I did my bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in kinesiology at University of Ottawa. During my postdoctoral studies in Dallas I gained interest in the effects of heat waves on the human body while trying to understand the science behind increased risk in elderly people during these types of events.
2. What interests you most about this type of research?
Initially, my research was focused on the harmful effects of heat with older people. Following my postdoctoral fellowship in Dallas, I began to focus my efforts on the positive effects of heat on cardiovascular health and blood vessels. This led me to analyze the effects of sauna attendance on cardiovascular health, a study that touches your field of work.
3. Do you believe that the use of saunas could affect the well-being of those who practise this activity weekly? We think of Northern countries which are annually classified amongst the happiest countries of the world and which happen to be pioneers of this type of practice.
There are many factors that can influence this hypothesis, many of which that cannot be isolated. Because of that I can’t affirm or deny this hypothesis. However, it would be a very interesting study to do! For now, we’re focusing our efforts on everything related to the heart.
4. According to your research, what frequency of heat exposure would have an impact on cardiovascular health?
According to studies on the subject, 19 minutes of sauna per session 4 times per week would be the magic numbers in order to have a significant impact on cardiovascular health.
5. Are there any other interesting facts that came out of your researches of heat effects on the body?
Exposure to heat is more popular and is currently becoming a new trend, like saunas, hot baths, hot yoga, etc. People are gaining interest on the subject. There are also several researchers who are looking into the heat effects on the metabolism by comparing heat exposure to exercise. Several studies also seek to analyze effects on heat tolerance levels when practised regularly.
6. Last questions, this is a question that you are probably often asked. Do you practise repeated heat exposure in saunas regularly?
I practised this activity during my studies, but for now, I don’t practise it anymore. I am patiently waiting to be 100% convinced by my research!
If you are interested in participating in this research project, please contact the research team for more information at the 514-374-1480 ext. 4265.