I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t enjoy a relaxing sauna session. It’s a chance to meditate, sweat out the day (and those extra toxins), lose a little water weight, and loosen up stiff muscles while surrounded by warmth.
However, after a lot of experimentation over the years, I’ve discovered that all saunas are definitely not the same. Since the rise of a particular type of sauna called infrared hit the scene, I haven’t looked back at traditional saunas. And after you hear about the enhanced benefits in terms of recovery and overall health, you probably won’t either.
What are Infrared Saunas?
Unlike traditional saunas that heat the air around you to work up a sweat, infrared saunas use electromagnetic radiation in the form of infrared light waves to generate heat from within your body. Infrared saunas are able to do this because infrared light waves can actually penetrate your skin layers to heal your body without heating the air around you.
This also means that infrared saunas can operate at a lower temperature than traditional saunas with the same benefits seeing as the air doesn’t have to get as warm around you to raise your core temperature.
Just to get an idea, manufacturers claim that in an infrared sauna, only about 20 percent of the heat goes to heat the air and the other 80 percent directly heats your body, whereas in a regular sauna, the focus is on heating the air. There are also claims that because of this, heat can penetrate more deeply into needed areas, and since the air around you is more tolerable, you can stay in the sauna for longer.
Benefits of Infrared Saunas
There’s a reason saunas are considered to be gold when it comes to wellness: the benefits are outstanding, especially from a training and recovery perspective. Infrared takes these benefits up a notch.
1. Can Reduce Inflammation
Whether you’re recovering from an injury or dealing with persistent joint or muscle pain, chances are inflammation is playing a role. And while not all inflammation is bad (our immune system stimulates inflammation to help protect wounds in order to heal) too much inflammation for too long can actually damage tissue.
When we’re trying to recover, reducing inflammation can help the process by reducing swelling and pain, which can increase blood and nutrient flow to the area and allow us to move more freely, making room for us to strengthen and loosen it.
Infrared has been shown to help reduce widespread inflammation by regulating inflammation pathways in your body. [*] This is also one of the reasons why infrared saunas work well for people with chronic inflammatory diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis – by reducing inflammation, infrared decreases joint pain and stiffness. [*]
2. Improves Circulation
Circulation is vital to just about all areas of health. Even when we talk about making gains or recovering, great circulation can help shuttle important nutrient-rich blood to muscles and ligaments, which helps both with growth and repair.
Infrared saunas improve circulation by raising your heart rate, dilating blood vessels, and stimulating blood flow in a similar way to a workout. [*] Because of this, there has also been research showing infrared saunas may help improve cardiovascular conditions and heart health.
3. Decreases Muscle Soreness
Because of infrared’s ability to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and promote faster recovery, it can also ease muscle soreness. After a rough workout, small, microscopic tears develop in our muscles; when these mend, our muscles are stronger and bigger (similar to scar tissue). During the process of healing these tears, however, we may experience soreness.
Studies show infrared sauna therapy can help decrease this muscle soreness and increase recovery from strength-training sessions, so we can get back at it sooner. [*]
As soon as we’re born (and even while we’re still in the womb) toxins from our modern-day environment begin accumulating in our bodies. This is especially true of heavy metals like cadmium and mercury, as well as other chemicals from plastics and cleaning/household products that can disrupt our hormone system.
Infrared saunas are one of the best ways to detox heavy metals and other toxins since one of the biggest detox pathways is through our skin via sweat. Studies show infrared boosts natural detoxification of toxins and are now being considered as a way to detox people who have been over-exposed to various chemicals. [*]
5. Anti-Aging and Can Boost Weight Loss
Not only does sweating out toxins give your skin a glow, but infrared radiation can also have massive anti-aging benefits. Studies show that it helps boost collagen, the main network of fibers that holds our skin in place while keeping it supple, elastic, and wrinkle-free. [*] Collagen production slows down as we age, and environmental factors like chemicals can also break down collagen, leading to sagging and dull skin. When we boost collagen production, our skin remains more supple, elastic, and stronger.
Not to mention, research shows that infrared therapy can help reduce DNA damage in the form of oxidative stress. Any number of things in our environment, from a bad diet to exposure to chemicals and even stress generates free radicals in our bodies that damage our DNA and create signs of aging, such as wrinkles. Oxidative stress is when these free radicals are actively damaging your body, and the typical recommendation to ease it is to consume “antioxidants” (make sense now?) in the form of fruits and veggies. These antioxidants help mop up excess free radicals to help prevent premature aging.
Interestingly, studies show infrared saunas can also help reduce oxidative stress, adding another layer of age-fighting to your regime. [*]
If weight loss is one of your goals as well, infrared delivers. By increasing your heart rate and facilitating sweating, it not only helps reduce extra water weight but can also increase your calorie burn since it’s effects mimic an exercise session.
Trying Out Infrared Saunas (plus how to bring one home to you)
There are two options for getting in a regular infrared session: visiting a spa or clinic in your area or investing in an in-home sauna. Personally, at first I thought installing an in-home sauna would be insanely expensive and difficult; however, I experienced the opposite.
The first was cost. It may seem like you’re putting down a lot of money upfront compared to paying per session or per month at a spa or facility, but in the long run, you’re actually paying less after just a year or two of owning your own – and you get unlimited sessions in your home.
As far as installation, JHN Lifestyles was my choice because they were not only super fast and had a seamless installation process, but they are also the highest-rated infrared saunas on Amazon with more 4+ star reviews than any competitors. Their saunas are also tested by Intertek, an unbiased third party that performs numerous types of equipment inspection, testing, and certification.
JHN Lifestyles also uses DuraPanels™ to protect the sauna from regular frame wear and tear caused by expanding and contracting due to heat. This is important since, over time, this can lead to frame splitting and cracking. The heat-resistant dual wall structure protects the sauna from both exterior and interior damage.
In other words: JHN is the real deal, and I wouldn’t choose any other sauna for our home. Check them out here – you’ll be surprised at how reasonable the prices are as well. The video above also shows a quick set-up and view of my chosen sauna model.
Tips to keep in mind before and during a session:
• Drink water. Always make sure you’re hydrated before and after going into your infrared sauna. Drink a glass of water before your session and bring extra water into the sauna.
• Choose the temperature. The average temperature for an infrared sauna ranges from 100˚F to 150˚F. If this is your first time, start with 100˚F. You may want to stay at this temperature for a few sessions then gradually increase.
• Length of time. If this is your first time, start with 10 to 15 minutes. You can add time each session until you reach the suggested 20 to 30 minutes. Saunas also come with a timer, so make sure to set it.
• Clothing. How you dress is your choice.