It turns out, they were on to something. A landmark study published in 2015 found that going in a sauna 2 or 3 times a week was associated with a 24% lower risk of all-cause mortality, and 4 to 7 times per week with a 40% reduction.
Keen to learn more about this protective wellbeing practice? Maybe you’re interested in the general health benefits of infrared saunas, or perhaps you completed one of our Enviro-Tox or Elements Tests and want to help support your body detoxification?
Either way, in this article we’ve got you covered. We spoke with Johannes Kettelhodt, CEO & Founder at Clearlight® Saunas, and put together this post which outlines what an infrared sauna is, the health benefits you can hope to gain from using one and how it can support detoxification and fat loss, as well as some best practice guidelines for using one safely.
What's an infrared sauna?
A traditional sauna works by heating the surrounding air, which in turn heats your body up. This differs from an infrared sauna, which emits a wavelength of light, which causes your body to raise its core temperature. Both have their benefits, but while a traditional sauna steam room creates surface sweat, an infrared sauna can elicit a deeper, more intense sweat.
An infrared sauna can raise your temperature up to around 38.5, which is essentially inducing a fever. But as we’ll discover in the next section, this is considered good stress for the body.
Health benefits of infrared sauna
- Manage stress: infrared saunas stimulate your rest and digest response, which is the opposite of the stressful fight or flight response many of us spend too much time stuck in.
- Boost metabolism: as your core temperature rises, you will sweat and your heart rate will increase in a bid to cool you down. This process helps speed up your metabolism.
- Improve immune response: “Raising the core body temperature beyond what is comfortable strengthens the immune system, increases the count of white blood cells and at the same time makes it uncomfortable for any virus in the body to survive because it slows down their reproduction,” says Johannes.
- Detox: The wavelengths emitted cause the fat cells in your tissue to vibrate, which helps to release heavy metals and toxins into the bloodstream ready to be removed through the skin and other organs. “There are a lot of expert voices saying that infrared saunas detoxify the body a lot better than traditional saunas,” says Johannes.
- Decrease cardiovascular disease risk: infrared saunas reduce blood pressure and artery stiffness while strengthening your cardiovascular system, which all help to protect the heart.
- Improve skin: sweating helps to remove impurities from the skin, repair damage and replace dead skin cells with fresher ones. Who needs a fancy spa facial when you've got a home sauna?
Do infrared saunas detox the body?
There is no doubt about it, we are exposed to far more drugs, preservatives, pesticides and other pollutants than our ancestors ever were. And unfortunately, many of these will stay stored in the body for a long time. But the good news is, you can help your body successfully detox with heat stress via a sauna. Wondering what toxins are released during infrared sauna? Here are a few:
Can infrared saunas burn fat?
Research carried out at Binghamton University in New York found that an increase in core body temperature resulted in a decrease in body fat. The two-phase trial found that participants who used an infrared sauna three times a week lost an average of 4% body fat over four months, compared with a control group.
The study found that those who completed their sauna sessions later in the day or evening lost significantly more fat compared with those who enjoyed their sauna in the morning.
How to use an infrared sauna
At home infrared saunas have plenty of benefits, so if you’re keen to give one a try here is how to get the most out of your session:
- Warm up first: Before your indoor sauna session, do a workout or go on a walk to get your heart beating a little faster and start to raise your core temperature. If that doesn’t work for you, perhaps you're in pain, take a hot shower or bath. "It sounds counterintuitive, but you're preconditioning your body to heat stress, it will take that activation energy and continue it,” says Johannes.
- Go at your own pace: “Knowing the studies, I really think there is no reason to not do it daily. Obviously, it depends on your physiology and your fitness. Generally speaking, preheat the sauna for 20 minutes, then use it for 20 to 40 minutes,” says Johannes.
- Stay hydrated: “Ideally have one glass of water before, one during and one after. If you are a heavy sweater, add some extra salt into your diet. Try not to eat one or two hours before going into the sauna,” says Johannes.
- Avoid a cold shower: “Don’t take a cold shower immediately afterwards. Take a warm shower first, this will ensure that your pores won’t close up straight away and you’ll be able to rinse of the sweat, excreted skin cells and toxins and prevent reabsorption. If you take a cold shower right away, the barrier essentially closes,” says Johannes, Co-founder, Clearlight Saunas.
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