Do you use an infrared sauna? In the United States, infrared (IR) saunas are making a stir in the health and wellness community due to their many health benefits. IR saunas have been shown to rid your body of toxins, reduce inflammation, and increase blood flow, among other things…not to mention, they're relaxing and destress the body.
What is the difference between a sauna and an infrared sauna?
In all saunas, your body temperature increases which induces sweating. With traditional saunas, the surrounding air heats up and warms you from the outside-in. IR saunas, on the other hand, cause your body temperature to rise from the inside-out. Instead of only heating the air, IR saunas heat the body directly.
IR heat penetrates more deeply than heated air. This results in a more vigorous sweat at a lower temperature. In an IR sauna, the way your body sweats is more effective at delivering benefits to you.
7 benefits of infrared saunas
1. Flushes toxins
Sweating helps the body the rid itself of toxins, but saunas also open up your pores, relax your body and activates the sweat glands. Studies have found that increased sweating, as experienced in a sauna, can help you excrete toxic metals like arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. One study found “sauna bathing... provide(s) a therapeutic method to increase elimination of toxic trace metals.” Another study found that “induced sweating in saunas can mobilize BPA in adipose tissue thus leading to enhanced excretion in sweat.”
Clinical Pearl: Sweating helps you eliminate toxins and infrared saunas can help you sweat at a much faster rate.
2. Fights dementia & Alzheimer’s disease
Saunas have been shown to improve vascular function, blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and boost cognition. One study found that a moderate to high frequency of sauna bathing was associated with lowered risks of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Clinical Pearl: Alzheimer’s is the third most common cause of death in the United States, so anything to help fight dementia is worth trying.
3. Weight loss
Saunas burn calories and aid in weight loss due to your body’s elimination of toxins, which in turn increases metabolism. Saunas also reduce the stress hormone cortisone, which has been linked to weight gain.
Clinical Pearl: People with a high BMI are at higher risk of dehydration -- they should make sure they drink water during a visit to the sauna.
4. Improves athletic performance
IR saunas can help improve overall athletic performance. Athletes who use saunas post-workout see an improvement in plasma, red blood cell volume, and overall performance.
One study found that post-exercise sauna use produced a “worthwhile enhancement of endurance running performance.” The researchers felt this was due to an overall increase in blood volume.
Clinical Pearl: When used appropriately, sauna has a positive effect on skeletal muscles by speeding up the excretion of metabolic waste.
5. Speeds up recovery
In addition to increasing athletic performance, studies have found that IR saunas help your neuromuscular system recover faster. With IR saunas, athletes are better able to quickly recover from endurance training. The warm temperatures experienced while in an IR sauna may help relax muscles, nerves and blood vessels. Studies show that IR saunas help neuromuscular system recovery after maximal endurance events.
One study showed that a single visit to an IR sauna (three sessions of 10 min each at 90°C and 10% relative air humidity) directly after 30 minutes of aerobic exercise reduced oxidative stress.
Clinical Pearl: A far-infrared (FIR) sauna provides gentle loading to the body with a comfortable and relaxing experience.
6. Improves cardiovascular function
Using a sauna is often compared to working out because of the raised body temperature, sweating, release of endorphins, and other relationships. Studies on the effects of IR saunas on cardiovascular health typically find similar benefits. One study found that sauna use is associated with a reduced risk of SCD, CHD, CVD, and all-cause mortality.
Clinical Pearl: Repeat sauna therapy in patients with chronic heart failure improves exercise tolerance as well as endothelial function and reduces ventricular arrhythmias.
7. Pain reduction
Last but not least for this list, IR saunas have been found to help reduce pain and inflammation. In one study on fibromyalgia patients, the use of an IR sauna reduced their pain by 50% after just one session.
Back pain is the most common cause of musculoskeletal disability in North America. The use of IR saunas has shown to be an effective treatment for those suffering from chronic lower back pain. In a six-week study, IR therapy showed a 50% decline in pain levels.
IR therapy has been shown effective for relief of arthritic knee pain as well as increased wound healing, blood flow, endorphin levels, and neuron activation.
Clinical Pearl: IR therapy is effective at reducing chronic low back pain with no adverse effects.
I love the IR sauna and use it often for detoxification, to increase athletic performance, enhance recovery, and reduce stress. If you are planning on using an IR sauna, make sure to drink plenty of water and restore your electrolytes afterwards!
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