On Hyperthermia and Age Reversal

Hyperthermia training is good for longevity, health, and may lengthen telomeres.
I’ve mastered cold thermogenesis (aside from that one minor incident in which I almost died on Thanksgiving) and now I have begun taking on the heat.  This week, I began sitting in a sauna for thirty minutes after each Stronglifts (5×5) Workout.  My hyperthermia (the condition of having an elevated body temperature) regimen will change as I become acclimated to the heat.  I will potentially work up to as much as two thirty minute sessions separated by 30 minutes.  I will also gradually attempt to increase the heat to as much as possible.  My temperature limitation will be dictated by the facility of the sauna I use.

Types of Hyperthermia Training
There are two types of Hyperthermia training;  passive and active.  Positive adaptations, like the ones listed below, of either can occur in as few as ten days.1   I will engage in passive to begin.  While my job keeps me accustomed to being physically active in oppressive summer heat, I have not been exposed to it recently because it is almost December.  Every summer, just like every winter, I find it takes my body and mind a few days of severe heat or extreme cold to acclimate.  As such, I have begun to slowly acclimate myself to temperatures in excess of 150 degrees fahrenheit.  Like cold thermogenesis, the heat is a very powerful force that should not be taken lightly.  The ugly looking scab above my lip is a painful reminder of that.As I become more comfortable in the heat, I may add some very light active forms of hyperthermia exercise.  I do not see myself ever jumping rope or doing pushups in a sauna (especially not alone), but I may do various isometric exercises including wall squats and will almost certainly eventually engage in stretching in the sauna.  Similar to the Hot, or Bikram, Yoga craze that has swept the nation, a warm muscle will stretch more easily than a cold one.  All types of stretching are good to promote joint health and mobility, but sauna stretching may yield greater results and improvements in flexibility.I would be primarily interested in active hyperthermia training in preparation for a race or activity that involved heat, like a marathon in the desert.  Active hyperthermia training would prepare me not only physiologically, but also mentally, which should be a key component of any successful training strategy.

Running in the desert likely results in hyperthermia.

Why Bother?
This is yet another therapy that is relatively time consuming.  I believe it is well worth the time, nevertheless.  Heat provides multiple beneficial physiological adaptations including, improved heat transfer from core to skin, more efficient cardiovascular function, decreased heart rate during hot exercise, decreased skin and body temperature during hot exercise, increased blood volume, and less electrolyte loss via kidney function.2  Simply put,  heat improves blood flow.  The sauna also offers a myriad of other benefits listed below.

Top Ten Benefits of Hyperthermia3

  1. Heart Health and Longevity.4,5
  2. Detoxification of harmful chemicals and heavy metals.6,7
  3. Athletic recovery.8,9
  4. Arthritic and muscular pain relief.10,11
  5. Muscle Gain and Fat Loss.12
  6. Immune system Boost.13,14
  7. Skin Rejuvenation.15
  8. Improved Sleep.16
  9. Increased cardiovascular performance.17,18
  10. Increased stress resilience.19

 

Hyperthermia and Telomeres
So, you may be thinking, “Ok, I get it.  The sauna has some benefits that will make you healthy, but how does that have anything to do with reversing your age and/or lengthening your telomeres?”  As is frequently the case with respect to my adoption of therapies, you’re right, there are zero clinical studies that indicate the sauna will lengthen one’s telomeres.  There are, however, hundreds of studies supporting each of the “Top Ten Benefits of Hyperthermia” listed above.  My contention began as, and remains, that if I improve as many of my Biomarkers of Aging as possible as much as possible, my telomeres will follow.

 

Hyperthermia and Biomarkers of Aging
We have learned from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University that there are ten primary Biomarkers of Aging.  Of those ten, studies have demonstrated regular use of sauna to have a positive effect on an astounding seven of them.

 

  1. Lean Body Muscle Mass
    1. In his fantastic book, Beyond Training, Ben Greenfield writes, “It has also been shown that a thirty minute intermittent hyperthermic treatment can cause a significant expression of something called heat shock proteins in muscle, which correlates to 30 percent more muscle regrowth than a control group during the seven days subsequent to a week of immobilization.  In other words, if you don’t exercise but you do use a sauna, you can still maintain muscle!”20
  2. Basal Metabolic Rate
    1. In a finnish study, ten healthy male volunteers were exposed to the dry heat of a sauna (+80 degrees C) for 1 h twice a day for a period of 7 days.  The study concluded that metabolic rate increased by 25-33% (P less than 0.01) after the first day.21
  3. Body Fat Percentage
    1. Ben Greenfield writes, “Sauna conditioning can promote muscle growth and fat loss by improving insulin sensitivity and decreasing muscle protein catabolism.  Intermittent hyperthermia has been shown to reduce insulin resistance in obese mice; in this case insulin resistant diabetic mice were subjected to thirty minutes of heat treatment, three times a week for twelve weeks.  The results were a 31% decrease in insulin levels and a significant reduction in blood glucose levels, both of which can contribute to an increase in muscle growth and an increase in weight control and fat loss.”22
  4. Blood Pressure
    1. A study determined that “exercise and sauna had positive effects on 24-hour systolic and mean blood pressure in patients with untreated hypertension. Exercise and sauna and sauna alone reduce total vascular resistance, with positive effects lasting up to 120 minutes after heat exposure.”23
  5. Insulin Sensitivity
    1. There are multiple clinical studies suggesting that hyperthermia therapy has the potential to help diabetics by improving insulin sensitivity.  One study in particular concludes that thermal therapy is a viable alternative to physical exercise for those too impaired to engage in rigorous activity.24
  6. Cholesterol/HDL Ratio
    1. A study out of Finland observed ten sauna sessions caused a reduction in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels and a gradual return of these levels to the initial level during the 1st and the 2nd week after the experiment. Incredibly, the positive effect on lipid profiles was similar to the effect of moderate-intensity physical exercise.25
  7. Body Temperature Regulation
    1. Cold training has made me good at regulating my body temperature.  Hyperthermia training, I believe, will make me awesome at it.  Seniors are  often very sensitive to reasonably hot and reasonably cold temperatures because their bodies have forgotten how to do what it was designed to do.  In my view, they need not be so sensitive to extreme temperatures if they would train their bodies and minds to adapt through cold and heat training.

 

Hyperthermia and Human Growth Hormone
One of the primary motivating factors for me to adopt this therapy is its effect on naturally produced growth hormone, the elixir of youth.  Ben Greenfield writes, “research has shown that two 20 minute sauna sessions separated by a thirty minute cooling period elevated growth hormone levels two fold over baseline.  Two 15 minute sauna sessions at an even warmer temperature separated by a thirty minute cooling period resulted in a fivefold increase in growth hormone.  Perhaps more amazing is that repeated exposure to whole body, intermittent hyperthermia through sauna use boosts growth hormone immediately afterward, and two one hour sauna sessions for seven days have been shown to increase growth hormone sixteen fold!  It is also important to note that when hyperthermia and exercise are combined, they induce a synergistic increase in growth hormone.”26  There are two camps in the growth hormone debate.  Each feels passionately about their respective position.  I fall in the middle.  I believe it is too early to say that it does not cause cancer or other  health problems, yet it is impossible not to be impressed by the benefits human growth hormone has had for some anti aging practitioners.  Both Suzanne Somers and Sylvester Stallone look pretty good for 71 years old.    I believe doing things to make your own body produce more HGH naturally is among the most beneficial things one can do to reverse one’s age.  Yet, I am not prepared to inject myself with it because I am not convinced it is safe to do so.

Diseases of prosperity
We’ve grown too comfortable as a society; too fat and too weak.  We can no longer stand the cold, or the heat, even though for most of humankind’s existence, we could easily stand either.  Our brains would simply cause our bodies to adjust to temperatures.  We’ve forgotten how to do that because the moment we are cold, we turn up the heat.  The moment we are hot, we crank the AC.  One could say our comfortable, prosperous lifestyles has given us brain damage.  But there is hope because you can re-teach your brain and body to better regulate your temperature.
In Conclusion
I’m not suggesting everyone go out and start working out in a sauna.  Neither am I suggesting that one just has to start regularly using a sauna to become fit, healthy, and/or reverse his or her age.  We simply do not know if hyperthermia positively affects telomeres or telomerase, though I believe it does.  I am suggesting that even if sauna doesn’t directly lengthen my telomeres, it is a safe and effective therapy that will improve performance and several of biomarkers of aging to some degree, as will cold thermogenesis training.  Hence, in my view, it is worth betting my time and effort on both.  Let’s hope a Scientist, PhD or MD is reading this and conducts a clinical trial to prove me right or wrong.

 

If you’re interested, check out this clip from CBS News on Saunas and longevity.

 

 

 

Citations
1 Greenfield, Ben. (2014). Beyond Training. Las Vegas: Victory Belt Publishing, Inc., 75.
2 Ibid., 75.
3 Ibid., 77 – 79.
4 Haseba, S., Sakakima, H., Kubozono, T., Nakao, S., & Ikeda, S. (2016). Combined effects of repeated sauna therapy and exercise training on cardiac function and physical activity in patients with chronic heart failure. Disability and rehabilitation, 38(5), 409-415.
5 Zaccardi, F., Laukkanen, T., Willeit, P., Kunutsor, S. K., Kauhanen, J., & Laukkanen, J. A. (2017). Sauna Bathing and Incident Hypertension: A Prospective Cohort Study. American Journal of Hypertension.
6 Greenfield, Ben. (2014). Beyond Training. Las Vegas: VBP, Inc., 77.
7 Crinnion, W. J. (2011). Sauna as a valuable clinical tool for cardiovascular, autoimmune, toxicant-induced and other chronic health problems. Alternative Medicine Review, 16(3), 215-226.
8 Greenfield, Ben. (2014). Beyond Training. Las Vegas: VBP, Inc., 77.
9 Buchheit, M., Horobeanu, C., Mendez-Villanueva, A., Simpson, B. M., & Bourdon, P. C. (2011). Effects of age and spa treatment on match running performance over two consecutive games in highly trained young soccer players. Journal of sports sciences, 29(6), 591-598.
10  Greenfield, Ben. (2014). Beyond Training. Las Vegas: Victory Belt Publishing, Inc., 77-78.
11  Oosterveld, F. G., Rasker, J. J., Floors, M., Landkroon, R., van Rennes, B., Zwijnenberg, J., … & Koel, G. J. (2009). Infrared sauna in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Clinical rheumatology, 28(1), 29.
13 Pilch, W., Pokora, I., Szyguła, Z., Pałka, T., Pilch, P., Cisoń, T., … & Wiecha, S. (2013). Effect of a single Finnish sauna session on white blood cell profile and cortisol levels in athletes and non-athletes. Journal of human kinetics, 39(1), 127-135.
14 Greenfield, Ben. (2014). Beyond Training. Las Vegas: VBP, Inc., 78.
15 Ibid., 78.
16 Ibid., 78-79.
17 Brunt, V. E., Howard, M. J., Francisco, M. A., Ely, B. R., & Minson, C. T. (2016). Passive heat therapy improves endothelial function, arterial stiffness and blood pressure in sedentary humans. The Journal of physiology, 594(18), 5329-5342.
18 Greenfield, Ben. (2014). Beyond Training. Las Vegas: VBP, Inc., 79.
19 Ibid.,  80.
20 Ibid., 78.
21 Leppäluoto, J., Tuominen, M., Väänänen, A., Karpakka, J., & VUOR, J. (1986). Some cardiovascular and metabolic effects of repeated sauna bathing. Acta Physiologica, 128(1), 77-81.
22 Greenfield, Ben. (2014). Beyond Training. Las Vegas: VBP, Inc., 78.
23 Gayda, M., Paillard, F., Sosner, P., Juneau, M., Garzon, M., Gonzalez, M., … & Nigam, A. (2012). Effects of sauna alone and postexercise sauna baths on blood pressure and hemodynamic variables in patients with untreated hypertension. The Journal of Clinical Hypertension, 14(8), 553-560.
24 McCarty, M. F., Barroso-Aranda, J., & Contreras, F. (2009). Regular thermal therapy may promote insulin sensitivity while boosting expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase–effects comparable to those of exercise training. Medical hypotheses, 73(1), 103-105.
25 Gryka, D., Pilch, W., Szarek, M., Szygula, Z., & Tota, Ł. (2014). The effect of sauna bathing on lipid profile in young, physically active, male subjects. International journal of occupational medicine and environmental health, 27(4), 608-618.
26 Greenfield, Ben. (2014). Beyond Training. Las Vegas: VBP, Inc., 77.

Coming Soon:
On Air Purification – Indoor Air Quality and its Effects on Telomeres

On Whey Protein

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