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Heat therapy boosts mitochondrial function in muscles: Increased capability of cells' energy centers could help treat heart disease, diabetes -- ScienceDaily

Mitochondria, the "energy centers" of the cells, are essential for maintaining good health. A decrease in the number or function of mitochondria may contribute to chronic and potentially serious conditions such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and type 2 diabetes. Exercise has been shown to create new mitochondria and improve function of existing mitochondria. However, some people with chronic illnesses are not able to exercise long enough -- previous research suggests close to two hours daily -- to reap the benefits. Rodent studies have suggested that heat exposure may also induce the production of more mitochondria. Researchers from Brigham Young University in Utah studied 20 adult volunteers who had not participated in regular exercise in the three months prior to the study. The research team applied two hours of shortwave diathermy -- a type of heat therapy generated by electrical pulses -- to the thigh muscles of one leg of each person every day. The researchers based the six-day trial of heat on the minimum amount of exercise needed to measure changes in muscle, or about two hours each day. They designed the treatment to mimic the effects of muscle heating that occurs during exercise. The therapy sessions increased the temperature of the heated leg by approximately 7 degrees F. Each participant's other leg served as a control, receiving no heat therapy or temperature change. The researchers looked at mitochondria content in the muscles on the first day of therapy and 24 hours after the last treatment. Mitochondrial function increased by an average of 28 percent in the heated legs after the heat treatment. The concentration of several mitochondrial proteins also increased in the heated legs, which suggests that "in addition to improving function, [repeated exposure to heat] increased mitochondrial content in human skeletal muscle," the research team wrote.

Sauna Bathing and Mortality | Lifestyle Behaviors | JAMA Internal Medicine | The JAMA Network

This study provides prospective evidence that sauna bathing is a protective factor against the risk of SCD, fatal CHD, fatal CVD, and all-cause mortality events in the general male population. Our results suggest that sauna bathing is a recommendable health habit, although further studies are needed to confirm our results in different population settings.