Combined Effect of Sauna Bathing and Cardiorespiratory Fitness on the Risk of Sudden Cardiac Deaths in Caucasian Men: A Long-term Prospective Cohort Study

Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2018 Mar-Apr;60(6):635-641. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2018.03.005. Epub 2018 Mar 16.


Both cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and frequency of sauna bathing (FSB) are each strongly and independently associated with sudden cardiac death (SCD) risk. However, the combined effect of CRF and FSB on SCD risk has not been previously investigated. We evaluated the joint impact of CRF and FSB on the risk of SCD in the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease prospective cohort study of 2291 men aged 42-61 years at recruitment. Objectively measured CRF and self-reported sauna bathing habits were assessed at baseline. CRF was categorized as low and high (median cutoffs) and FSB as low and high (defined as ≤2 and 3-7 sessions/week respectively). Multivariable adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) with confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated for SCD. During a median follow-up of 26.1 years, 226 SCDs occurred. Comparing high vs low CRF, the HR (95% CIs) for SCD in analysis adjusted for several established risk factors was 0.48 (0.34-0.67). Comparing high vs low FSB, the corresponding HR was 0.67 (0.46-0.98). Compared to men with low CRF & low FSB, the multivariate-adjusted HRs of SCD for the following groups: high CRF & high FSB; high CRF & low FSB; and low CRF & high FSB were 0.31 (0.16-0.63), 0.49 (0.34-0.70), and 0.71 (0.45-1.10) respectively. In a general male Caucasian population, the combined effect of high aerobic fitness (as measured by CRF) and frequent sauna baths is associated with a substantially lowered risk of future SCD compared with high CRF or frequent sauna bathing alone.

Keywords: Cardiorespiratory fitness; Sauna; Sudden cardiac death.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Steam Bath / statistics & numerical data*
  • White People / statistics & numerical data