What are the health benefits of infrared saunas?
Although infrared saunas have long been used in hospitals and medical centres, their non-medical uses are becoming increasingly widespread. The infrared sauna market is now worth around $75 million and celebrities like Lady Gaga, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston regularly use them. Whilst classic saunas have long been touted for their health benefits, infrared saunas are increasingly seen as a more beneficial alternative.
What is an infrared sauna?
An infrared sauna is built like a traditional sauna, but instead of using traditional methods like rocks, electricity or wood burning to create the heat inside, it uses electromagnetic radiation to emit waves of infrared light—this is the invisible part of the sun’s spectrum that creates heat. While a traditional sauna merely warms the air around the body, infrared light waves directly heat the body by penetrating skin tissue. For this reason, infrared saunas operate at a lower temperature than standard saunas—typically around 69°C instead of more than 93°C.
Why use an infrared sauna over a standard sauna?
The extremely high temperatures at which traditional hot rock or steam saunas operate can be uncomfortable to many, and some people may find it hard to breathe in these warm and humid environments.
As classic saunas merely heat the surrounding air, they offer different health benefits to infrared saunas. Infrared saunas directly penetrate skin tissue, heating the body more effectively and doing so much quicker. This will lead to more sweat being produced and improved blood flow to the heart, muscles and skin.
What health benefits does an infrared sauna offer?
Infrared heat offers the benefits of natural sunlight without the risks of solar radiation. These include:
- Improved circulation – The heat from an infrared sauna will increase a user’s core body temperature, in turn increasing blood circulation. Doing this consistently can stimulate blood flow, which can have a multitude of health benefits including the promotion of optimum function.
- Pain relief – By increasing circulation and relaxing the muscles, infrared saunas can reduce inflammation, relieving muscle aches and joint pains.
- Weight loss – As the body works harder to reduce its core temperature, calories will be burnt in the process which results in weight loss.
- Detoxification – Perspiration is a fundamental detox function. Users of infrared saunas will eliminate toxins through sweat.
- Better cognitive function – High temperatures stimulate neurogenesis—the growth of new brain cells—and can also increase levels of norepinephrine, a hormone that can help with our focus and attention.
Infrared saunas can also purify skin, improve aerobic performance, help the immune system, decrease stress levels and stimulate heat shock proteins which helps to prevent the breakdown of muscle.
Is infrared heat safe?
Infrared heat is 100% safe, provided users are well hydrated. Although it is a form of electromagnetic radiation, of which some types can be dangerous (like ultraviolet or x-rays), the form used in saunas is harmless. As long as users are careful, infrared saunas will pose no harm. Users should ensure they are fully hydrated before sauna sessions to prepare for a rise in body temperature, and start with shorter sessions to adjust to this increased heat.