Effect of sauna-based heat acclimation on plasma volume and heart rate variability

Stanley, Jamie, Halliday, Aaron, D'Auria, Shaun, Buchheit, Martin and Leicht, Anthony S. (2014) Effect of sauna-based heat acclimation on plasma volume and heart rate variability. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 115 4: 785-794. doi:10.1007/s00421-014-3060-1

Author Stanley, Jamie
Halliday, Aaron
D'Auria, Shaun
Buchheit, Martin
Leicht, Anthony S.
Title Effect of sauna-based heat acclimation on plasma volume and heart rate variability
Journal name European Journal of Applied Physiology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1439-6319
Publication date 2014-11-29
Year available 2014
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1007/s00421-014-3060-1
Open Access Status
Volume 115
Issue 4
Start page 785
End page 794
Total pages 10
Place of publication Heidelberg Germany
Publisher Springer
Collection year 2015
Language eng
Formatted abstract

We investigated the effect of post-exercise sauna bathing on plasma volume (PV) expansion and whether such responses can be tracked by changes in heart rate (HR)-based measures.


Seven, well-trained male cyclists were monitored for 35 consecutive days (17 days baseline training, 10 days training plus sauna, 8 days training). Sauna exposure consisted of 30 min (87 °C, 11 % relative humidity) immediately following normal training. Capillary blood samples were collected while resting seated to assess PV changes. HR (HRwake) and vagal-related HR variability (natural logarithm of square root mean squared differences of successive R–R intervals, ln rMSSDwake) were assessed daily upon waking. A sub-maximal cycle test (5 min at 125 W) was performed on days 1, 8, 15, 22, 25, 29, and 35 and HR recovery (HRR60s) and ln rMSSDpostex were assessed post-exercise. Effects were examined using magnitude-based inferences.


Compared with baseline, sauna resulted in: (1) peak PV expansion after four exposures with a likely large increase [+17.8 % (90 % confidence limits, 7.4; 29.2)]; (2) reduction of HRwake by a trivial-to-moderate amount [−10.2 % (−15.9; −4.0)]; (3) trivial-to-small changes for ln rMSSDwake [4.3 % (1.9; 6.8)] and ln rMSSDpostex [−2.4 % (−9.1; 4.9)]; and (4) a likely moderate decrease in HRR60s [−15.6 % (−30.9; 3.0)]. Correlations between individual changes in PV and HR measures were all unclear.


Sauna bathing following normal training largely expanded PV in well-trained cyclists after just four exposures. The utility of HR and HRV indices for tracking changes in PV was uncertain. Future studies will clarify mechanisms and performance benefits of post-training sauna bathing.
Keyword Heat exposure
Blood volume
Cardiac parasympathetic activity
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Published online ahead of print 29 Nov 2014

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2015 Collection
School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences Publications
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