If you’ve been to a spa or to a fancy gym, you’ll have likely spent some time in a sauna. The dry heat is a great way to relax and unwind after a tough workout, or if you just need to get some warmth into your muscles, sweat, and “chill out” as it were. But have you ever tried an infrared sauna? If you’re curious, here are some of the benefits of spending time in an infrared sauna.
What is an infrared sauna?
In a traditional sauna, the air is heated typically between 150°F and 195°F (65°C to 90°C). The heated air then warms your body, inducing reactions that are similar to how it feels after a workout – warmth, sweating, and a raised heart rate.
An infrared sauna uses infrared light to heat the body directly without the need to heat the air around you. This allows you to achieve the same positive effects from a sauna – warmth, sweating and a raised heart rate – without the need to endure those incredibly high temperatures. Sometimes called a far-infrared sauna, this refers to the light used which sits at the far end of the spectrum, making it even safer than natural sunlight.
So if you don’t enjoy excessive heat, or you find traditional saunas uncomfortable, you might want to try out an infrared sauna instead.
How often to use an infrared sauna
Infrared saunas are safe to use as often as you’d like, with many facilities suggesting using the sauna three to four times a week. If you’re healthy and you’re enjoying the sauna and are comfortable with the heat, there’s nothing to say you can’t use an infrared sauna every day.
When using an infrared sauna, be sure to drink plenty of water, just as you would using a traditional sauna. When you’re spending 45 minutes sitting in infrared lights and sweating, it makes sense that you’ll need to replenish and stay hydrated – especially if you’re sensitive to the heat.
On that note, you’re often able to choose the temperature for an infrared sauna, so don’t go nuts if it’s your first time. Average infrared sauna temperatures range from 100˚F to 150˚F (37°C to 65°C) and it’s best for beginners to start at the lower end of that spectrum. You can always crank up the heat on your next visit or stay longer at the lower temperatures and give yourself more time to relax.
Similarly, first time sauna goers should probably stick to shorter sessions at the start, probably around 10 to 15 minutes in order to get used to it before you build up to longer sessions. Since the main benefit of an infrared sauna is to relax and enjoy yourself, only stay for as long as you can do both. If you’re uncomfortable and are counting down the seconds until you can leave, then just leave. No prizes for sticking it out for longer. Then just be sure to take your time to cool down properly afterwards before heading out and carrying on with your day.
Infrared sauna health benefits
The health benefits of saunas have been well documented, with a number of long-term studies even revealing how regular sauna bathing can reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, headaches, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis.
Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland performed a 20-year study which found that middle-aged men who visited a sauna four to seven times a week were at a much lower risk of death than those who went just once a week. And if anyone knows about saunas, it’s Finnish people.
Infrared sauna health benefits are much the same as traditional sauna benefits, with the added advantage of not having to endure the excessively high temperatures, and include the following:
The most obvious and most important benefit of infrared saunas is that they are relaxing and enjoyable. There are countless negative side effects of stress, and if a warm relaxing infrared sauna can help negate some of those and leave you feeling relaxed and happy, it’s already a win.
Similarly to relaxation, infrared saunas have been found to induce better sleep, and even have suggested benefits for people with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Relief from sore muscles and joints
One of the most common reasons for visiting an infrared sauna is to help with relief from sore muscles. If you’ve done a particularly hard workout, time in a sauna afterwards can help to reduce muscle soreness. Similarly, those suffering from joint pain or arthritis often benefit from using an infrared sauna.
Infrared saunas have been shown to produce an oxidative effect. An increased heart rate means more blood is going out to your extremities and your body increases basal dilation – the opening of arteries – as it tries to cool itself down. Some small-scale trials have suggested that inflammatory markers in the blood improve with treatments. The improved circulation and blood have also been suggested to increase collagen production for clearer, tighter skin.
Don’t sweat it and give it a try
While at the moment there isn’t much concrete evidence of the wider health benefits of infrared saunas, what can be said for certain is that there aren’t any risks to it. Don’t confuse it with UV tanning beds which use potentially harmful UV light. Infrared is completely harmless, sitting safely further along the light spectrum than natural daylight.
At the end of the day, if you find saunas relaxing and restorative but don’t enjoy the excessively high temperatures, then it’s absolutely worth giving an infrared sauna a try.
Search for infrared saunas near you.