Athletes are using infrared saunas more and more, and they are becoming the go-to recovery fitness tool. So I decided to read up on what the new trend is all about and if the health benefits are worth it. Sweat therapies aren’t a new thing. Greeks and Romans roast in bathhouses; sweat lodges, and there are more saunas than cars in Finland. So people are purchasing these small pop-up recovery tools for around $3,000.
Infrared saunas use infrared light, similar to sunlight’s UV rays.
It increases the body’s core temperature, raises the sweat rate, and improves blood flow, which supports the removal of metabolic waste in the body. Rather than baking like a Thanksgiving turkey at 200 degrees, infrared saunas operate 50 to 70 degrees lower. The idea is that lower heat allows for longer sessions, which will deliver pain relief, better sleep, clearer complexion, enhanced immunity, relaxation, and mental clarity. Sounds pretty amazing… but is it THAT good?
There are two kinds of infrared saunas: Near infrared radiation (NIR) and far infrared radiation (FIR).
NIR emits shorter infrared wavelengths at lower temperatures so users can withstand longer sessions. FIR emits longer waves and operates at slightly higher temperatures, though still lower than traditional saunas. From what I have researched FIR saunas are primarily used for recovery from strength training and exercise. Despite the marketing buzz over the detoxing your body goes through in an infrared sauna, the term is misleading. What you’re basically doing is sweating – a lot. And no matter how you twist it, sweat is mostly salt and water. And this is the body’s natural way of dissipating heat.
Dr. Rhonda Patrick says: “Sauna use is essentially mimicking moderate aerobic cardiovascular exercise, and so a lot of the same physiological responses that happen when you’re exercising. After the sauna and exercise, blood pressure is lower and resting heart rate is lower.”
In the first two minutes of her video, she summarizes the benefits but makes it clear that all the studies out of Finland associate sauna use with lower risks of many diseases, i.e., stroke, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and others. However, she emphasizes that these results are for people that use their sauna 4-7 times per week. Someone who just uses it once might as well not be participating. She also mentions it gives people the time during the day to relax and almost meditate on a regular basis and have time to themselves, which can have some great health benefits on its own.
If you’re going to do it, you must fully commit. Get that home sauna (which I think you can find plenty on Facebook marketplace) or membership at a gym. Set a schedule to commit to it 4-7 times weekly, and you can benefit from these long-term results.