The sauna is a centuries-old practice that has been used as a way to relax, cleanse the body, and relieve pain. Today there are many variations on traditional saunas, including infrared saunas. This form of sauna is becoming increasingly popular due to the many unique health benefits that it can offer. If you are looking for a way to improve your health, an infrared sauna may be the perfect solution.
What is an infrared sauna?
An infrared sauna is a dry heat therapy that uses infrared light, which penetrates your skin and directly heats your body. By comparison, traditional saunas work by first heating the air around you. And since infrared saunas don’t need to heat the room, they take far less time to reach the optimal temperature, keeping energy costs low. You also do not need special ventilation for the excess heat and moister created with a conventional sauna. Surprisingly, despite the air temperature being much lower in an infrared sauna, you will sweat just as much (if not more).
What are the benefits of an infrared sauna?
You’ve likely heard about the many claims regarding infrared saunas and their benefits, but here is what the research actually shows:
Improves heart health
One of the most impressive benefits of infrared saunas is their ability to improve heart health. Studies have shown that regular use of an infrared sauna can help to lower blood pressure and improve circulation. This can in turn reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Detoxifies the body
Another great benefit of infrared saunas is their ability to detoxify the body. Studies have shown that sweating can eliminate toxins from heavy metals and chemicals that build up over time. Sweating these harmful substances can improve your health and even help prevent diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and high cholesterol levels.
Relieves pain and inflammation
If you suffer from pain or inflammation, an infrared sauna can be a great way to find relief. The heat of the sauna can help to relax muscles and reduce inflammation. This can lead to significant decreases in pain levels. Studies have shown that saunas can be beneficial for people with low back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and even chronic pain.
Boost collagen and improves skin health
Research shows that spending time in an infrared sauna can help boost your body’s production of collagen. Collagen is a protein responsible for keeping our skin healthy and elastic. As we age, our bodies produce less collagen, leading to wrinkles and other signs of aging. The heat of the infrared sauna can also help to open up pores and remove impurities from the skin, allowing better nutrient absorption into your skin cells.
Boosts immune system
Another great benefit of infrared saunas is their ability to boost the immune system. Regular use of an infrared sauna can help to fight off colds and infections. This is due to the fact that the heat of the sauna can help to increase blood circulation and white blood cell production.
Improves muscle recovery and flexibility
By heating up your muscles, saunas help to increase blood flow and oxygenation to the area, which can speed up the healing process, say studies. In addition, the heat from infrared saunas can help to loosen tight muscles and improve your range of motion. A good sauna session after a workout can also help you recover faster by flushing out metabolic waste like lactic acid. Studies also show that it increases the production of growth hormones along with overall endurance.
Decreases depression and anxiety
The increased production of endorphins that occurs during an infrared sauna session can help to improve mood and decrease depression. The heat of the sauna can also help to relax the body and mind, which can lead to a decrease in anxiety levels.
Lose weight (maybe)
You won’t lose as much weight as you think. But according to recent studies, sweating it out in a sauna has some of the same health benefits as low to moderate exercises. Not a huge calorie burn, but with about 25% of the U.S. population not getting enough exercise, this could be a good option for those who are either unwilling or unable to exercise. But don’t be fooled: you’ll lose a lot of water weight, so it might seem like you’re really shedding the pounds. It’s not all going away so fast. It’s best to think of saunaing as an addition to exercise.
Not surprisingly, with the above-mentioned benefits (relaxation, recovery, and improved heart), studies also show saunas can help people sleep get a better night’s sleep. In addition, the heat of the sauna can help to increase blood flow and oxygenation to the brain, which can lead to improved sleep quality.
Lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
A recent study has shown that regular use of an infrared sauna can help to improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. The study found that regular sauna use can help to lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Tips to get the most benefit out of an infrared sauna
- Start with exercise to get the blood pumping. A recent study found that spending 15 minutes in a sauna after working out, 3 times a week for 8 weeks resulted in even more benefits than just exercise alone.
- Take a warm shower or bath. It will open up your pores and make it easier for sweat to come out.
- Pick the right temperature. The most ideal temperature to set your infrared sauna for health benefits is between 115-135 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if this is your first time using one, begin with 100˚F then slowly work your way up.
- Preheat the sauna. Your infrared sauna will only take 10-15 minutes to preheat, but don’t feel like you have to wait until it hits the highest temperature.
- Begin with shorter sessions. If you’re new to infrared saunas, start with short sessions. Start by sitting in the sauna for about 10 minutes, then gradually increase your session time to 20 or 30 minutes.
- Drink plenty of water and electrolytes. You’ll lose a lot of water and minerals during your session, so you need to replenish and hydrate before, during, and after.
- Wear minimal and or no clothing. Wear something clean, and comfortable (cotton or any breathable fabric), but you may also choose not to wear anything. Just don’t wear too much clothing, you want the infrared light to reach your skin.
- Sit up straight. To get the most out of the infrared heat, experts recommend sitting up straight and positioning yourself so that the heaters are reaching as much of your body as possible.
- Make it a digital detox. Make the most of this time away from technology and distractions. You might try meditation, mindfulness, or simply breathing deeply and closing your eyes to fully embrace the digital detox.
- Take it slow when getting out of the sauna. To avoid getting dizzy or lightheaded from rapid temperature changes, crack the sauna door open a bit to let the cold air in gradually.
- Stand frequently during your session. This will improve circulation and help increase blood flow and oxygen levels to your brain, which can help with mental clarity and focus when needed.
- Listen to your body. If you feel lightheaded, dizzy, nauseous, queasy, or off in any way, end your session.
- Finish with a cold shower. A post-sauna cold shower can help to close your pores and rinse away the sweat so that you don’t reabsorb the toxins you just worked hard to release.
Are there side effects or risks?
An infrared sauna can help you get healthier and lose weight, but it’s essential to know the risks before trying it out. Here are some of the main side effects or risks associated with using an infrared sauna:
- Mild to moderate heat discomfort
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- Transient leg pain
- Airway irritation
Who should avoid infrared saunas?
Pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and those with heart conditions or other serious health concerns should avoid using infrared saunas. If you are pregnant, it is best to consult with your doctor before using an infrared sauna. If you have any other health concerns, it is also important to speak with your doctor before using an infrared sauna.
So, is an infrared sauna worth it?
If you’re looking for a way to improve your health and find another way to unwind, an infrared sauna might be right for you. There are many benefits associated with using an infrared sauna. Just be sure to listen to your body, drink plenty of fluids, and start slowly to avoid any adverse effects. And if you have any health concerns, be sure to speak with your doctor before using an infrared sauna. Give it a try and see how you feel!