People have been practicing “sauna therapy” for thousands of years. This dates back to a pre-electricity era where pits were dug into hillsides, and fireplaces were started, as a way to survive winter. Now, saunas are obviously a bit more upscale and have many practical benefits for those seeking wellness. Most larger exercise facilities have saunas, but only in the past few years have infrared saunas become popular.
Therefore, you may have to find out which type of sauna your facility has and generally whether therapy is really essential. We’re going to explore the positives in detail, and add some “cons” so you can make an informed decision.
First, an explanation of the distinctions between regular and infrared saunas. Unlike regular saunas which simply heat the air in the room – you’ll typically see a pile of heated rocks – infrared saunas use light panels which warm your body directly1. Therefore, while regular saunas are usually around 160 degrees (there’s usually a thermometer in the room), an infrared sauna can operate in the 110-135 degree range. The lamps cause a deeper penetration of the heat in your body, which leads to the benefits we’re discussing below, and a more “tolerable” sauna experience. Therefore, this is a big distinction!
Improved Heart Health. Studies have shown that infrared saunas cause your blood vessels to widen and increase blood flow, while your heart rate ticks up2 – a similar result of cardiovascular exercise. This helps lower blood pressure as well. Researchers have equated the effects of infrared sauna treatment to a long, steady-paced walk.
Soothing Sore Muscles & Pain Relief. The improved blood circulation brought on by infrared sauna treatment can soothe sore muscles and even help athletic performance. Additionally, there is some evidence that in certain cases, it can help treat chronic pain. If pain relief is your purpose for infrared sauna sessions, we’d suggest consulting your doctor first.
Relaxation & Sleep. In short, warming your body can also warm your soul. Regular infrared sauna sessions can help decrease depression, stress, and anxiety. Also, better sleep has been linked to infrared sauna use.
Fighting off Illnesses. The concept here is that sweating out toxins such as cadmium and lead can help you avoid the common cold or flu. However, there has not been a conclusive study that has proven this as fact.
Clearer Skin. Sweating helps open and flush out toxins that get trapped in your pores. This lets your skin “breathe.” This is one benefit that applies to both infrared and traditional saunas.
In terms of disadvantages, most are preventable3. Be sure to drink plenty of liquids before & after going in a sauna, or dehydration can become an issue. If you have sensitive skin which is susceptible to dry heat, infrared sauna may not be for you. We’d recommend moisturizing before and after a session, and starting with a low-temperature, short session – say, 5-8 minutes – and seeing how your body responds. Finally, we do NOT recommend infrared sauna treatment for individuals who are pregnant, have been treated for heart disease, or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In short, when in doubt, consult a doctor first.
I will provide a first-person account and say that I’ve found infrared sauna therapy to be wonderful. My local health club replaced the traditional sauna with infrared and I found the experience to be much more enjoyable and effective. The aforementioned benefits with sleep and reduction in stress are tangible and real!
– Johnny Premier, COO of Allwell
1 Healthline, “Is an Infrared Sauna Better than a Regular Sauna?” – https://www.healthline.com/health/infrared-sauna-benefits#What-is-an-infrared-sauna?
2 Cleveland Clinic, “Infrared Saunas, What they do – 6 Benefits” – https://health.clevelandclinic.org/infrared-sauna-benefits/
3 MuscleLab, “Infrared Sauna Benefits & Disadvantages: What You Need to Know” – https://musclelab.la/blogs/news/infrared-sauna-benefits-and-disadvantages-what-you-need-to-know