Safety, Acceptance, and Physiologic Effects of Sauna Bathing in People With Chronic Heart Failure: A Pilot Report

Jeffrey R. Basford, Jae K. Oh, Thomas G. Allison, Charles G. Sheffield, Barbara G. Manahan, David O. Hodge, A. Jamil Tajik, Richard J. Rodeheffer, Chuwa Tei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Basford JR, Oh JK, Allison TG, Sheffield CG, Manahan BG, Hodge DO, Tajik AJ, Rodeheffer RJ, Tei C. Safety, acceptance and physiologic effects of sauna bathing in people with chronic heart failure: a pilot report. Objectives: To perform a pilot study and make a preliminary assessment of the safety and acceptance of supervised sauna bathing at moderate temperatures in people with chronic heart failure (CHF). Secondary measures included its impact on exercise tolerance and neuroendocrine concentrations. Design: Randomized, controlled, cross-over trial. Setting: Physical medicine and rehabilitation clinic. Participants: Six men and 3 women (age, 62-87y) with New York Heart Association Class III and IV CHF. Interventions: Subjects were randomized into 2 groups and told to maintain their normal medication and activity regimens. One group then began a 3-times-a-week, 4-week sauna bathing program at 60±1°C while the other continued with their usual activities and medications. Assignments were then reversed. Sessions were 15 minutes in length but were prolonged an additional 5 minutes for oral temperature increases less than 1.0°C. Main Outcome Measures: Patient acceptance, Minnesota Living With Heart Failure Questionnaire (MLWHFQ) scores; treadmill exercise duration and plasma adrenaline, noradrenalin, aldosterone, atrial naturectic factor, adrenomedulin, and endothelin. Results: Sauna bathing was well tolerated and no adverse effects were reported. Improvements in MLWHFQ scores and treadmill endurance did not achieve statistical significance on a between-group basis but were more marked after the sauna than during the control phase. Neuroendocrine concentrations showed no clear effect of sauna treatment with a between-group statistically significant difference (P=.049) found only in the case of noradrenalin's 24% decrease. Conclusions: Sauna bathing under the moderate and supervised conditions of this study appears to be well tolerated and may be safe for people with CHF. More research is needed to further evaluate the safety and potential benefits of this approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-177
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Cardiac disease
  • Heart failure
  • Hyperthermia
  • Rehabilitation
  • Sauna

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


Dive into the research topics of 'Safety, Acceptance, and Physiologic Effects of Sauna Bathing in People With Chronic Heart Failure: A Pilot Report'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this