What is an infrared sauna? What are the infrared sauna health benefits and how is an infrared sauna different to a normal one? These are the first questions that come to mind when people hear of them.
They have been popping up in dedicated places in the last few years (starting in New York, obvs) and according to Vogue, Kendall Jenner got one for her birthday in 2018 from her sisters. If you are wondering what they do, and if they’re worth spending up to £50 on, I’ve laid it all out for you…
What is an infrared sauna?
A traditional sauna heats the air which in turn heats the body, whereas in an infrared sauna the rays hit your skin and heat it directly, with only 20 per cent heating the air according to manufacturers.
An infrared sauna does not get as hot as a traditional sauna, so you will most likely be able to last longer – however, the light rays are said to penetrate the body deeper, heating it more and giving way to more efficient results (and more sweat).
Infrared sauna health benefits (and how they differ from traditional saunas)
The effects of an infrared sauna are much the same as your usual type, however the claim is that the effects are heightened, and due to the fact most people can sustain infrared heat for longer then it makes sense that they reap more benefits.
Heating your body triggers the effects of having a fever, which forces your immune system into gear. This will target any underlying infections and eliminate toxins. This includes heavy metals and minerals which sneak into our systems through food, drink and chemicals in our environment – all of which is increasingly common in modern society.
Due to the deeper penetration of heat from the infrared rays the elimination of toxins is said to be up to 20 per cent more effective. This leads to improvements in your immune system and skin health.
Removing toxins from the skin is obviously a good thing, but that isn’t all that happens. The profuse sweating helps to get rid of dirt and dead skin cells, while the blood circulation brings more oxygen and nutrients into the skin. Additionally, even without heating the body red light is known to have anti-ageing benefits on the skin so altogether you will have cleaner skin, as well as improved texture, elasticity and colour.
When you heat your body, it works hard to cool itself by producing sweat and increasing your blood circulation, both of which means the heart has to work faster and the culmination of this is weight loss and increased metabolism. Traditional saunas are limited in this offering, whereas the direct heating of the body from infrared rays makes this process more effective.
Infrared saunas are said to heat three times as deep in the body, therefore the are better able to penetrate deep pockets of fat (which cause cellulite) and trigger lymphatic drainage of the problem areas.
In terms of calories burned, the claims vary a little. I think the safest thing for me to say is in 45 minutes you can burn 500 to 800 calories.
Muscle and joint pain
It is common knowledge that heat is good for muscles, that is why steam room and saunas are so commonly connected to gyms. Not only does heat help muscles to relax, but the increased blood flow triggered by heating the body means more oxygen is channelled to muscles which aids recovery. This can benefit those who suffer with different types of arthritis.
Stress and fatigue
The process in itself is intended to be relaxing, with the various health benefits leaving you feeling rejuvenated. Infrared saunas have also been shown to put the nervous system into a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state, which creates balance and allows healing.
Similarly, cortisol, the ‘fight or flight’ hormone produced in times of stress, is increasingly present in modern life (particular if you live in busy cities), meaning you and your body are in a frequent stressed state. Research shows that after an infrared sauna session the amount of cortisol in the body drops, so you will feel less stressed.
It claims to lead to improved sleep with studies even showing it can help with chronic fatigue.
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