Endocrine effects of repeated sauna bathing

Acta Physiol Scand. 1986 Nov;128(3):467-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-1716.1986.tb08000.x.


Ten healthy male and seven female volunteers were exposed to dry heat (in a Finnish sauna 80 degrees C) 1 h twice a day for 7 days. The levels of ACTH in plasma, cortisol, TSH, thyroid hormones, testosterone, gonadotropins, prolactin and GH in serum and urinary excretion of catecholamines were determined before the experiment, and on the first, third and seventh days. Females participated only in prolactin studies. During the experiments there were no statistically significant changes in serum thyroid hormones, TSH, testosterone, FSH and LH levels. Serum cortisol and plasma ACTH decreased and urinary catecholamine increased slightly at the end of the experiment (P less than 0.05). Serum GH and prolactin in males exhibited 16- and 2.3-fold increases (P less than 0.01), respectively. In females serum prolactin rose over four-fold (P less than 0.01). The GH rise in response to hyperthermia declined after the third day but prolactin remained elevated at the end of the experiments in males. The release of prolactin in females was also high and may be associated with the transient amenorrhoea that occurred in five out of seven subjects after the experiment. The increased release of prolactin and perhaps that of GH may be associated to the heat-exposure-induced dehydration.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / blood*
  • Adult
  • Catecholamines / urine*
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pituitary Hormones, Anterior / blood*
  • Steam Bath*
  • Thyroid Hormones / blood*
  • Time Factors


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Catecholamines
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Pituitary Hormones, Anterior
  • Thyroid Hormones