Samuel S. Van de Velde1, Isaiah A. St. Pierre1, Bryant R. Byrd1, Jennifer S. Fargo1, Lexie B. Loring1, Lance C. Dalleck1
1High Altitude Exercise Physiology Program, Western State Colorado University, Gunnison, CO, USA
Introduction: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 17.3 million deaths per annum, a figure that is projected to grow to more than 23.6 million by 2030. It has been estimated that 80% of premature heart disease can be prevented through positive modification of CVD risk factors. It has been demonstrated that systemic thermal therapy by regular administration of heat through a variety of methodologies, such as sauna or taking a warm bath, can induce a number of advantageous responses in terms of cardiovascular health. However, no studies have investigated the effects of exercise training with a sauna suit, a practical and portable alternative to other thermal treatments, on cardiometabolic risk factors. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of exercise training with a sauna suit at positively modifying cardiometabolic risk factors. Methods: Twelve men (mean ± SD: age, height, weight, percentage body fat, and VO2max = 25.3 ± 7.3 yr, 179.6 ± 5.7 cm, 78.6 ± 7.6 kg, 14.6 ± 3.3 %, and 50.4 ± 8.8 mL/kg/min, respectively) completed a 6wk exercise training program (30min sessions performed 5 days/wk at a moderate-intensity of 55-60% heart rate reserve) while wearing a sauna suit. Cardiometabolic risk factors were measured at baseline and post-program. Results: After 6wk of exercise training with a sauna suit there were significant (p < 0.05) improvements in the following cardiometabolic risk factors: percentage body fat (relative Δ -1.5%), systolic (relative Δ -1.4%) and diastolic (relative Δ -3.1%) blood pressure, triglycerides (relative Δ -15.5%), HDL cholesterol (relative Δ +6.4%), and maximal oxygen uptake (relative Δ +8.5%). Conclusions: Findings from the present study support the feasibility of exercise training with a sauna suit to improve cardiovascular health. Indeed, the present study demonstrated that regular moderate-intensity exercise training with a sauna suit elicited improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness and positive modification to several key CVD risk factors.