A lot has been touted regarding infrared saunas and their effects on health & weight loss. Claims range from improved muscle hypertrophy, accelerated recovery, and enhanced fat loss, to name just a few. I’d like to disperse any remaining fog of uncertainty on the matter, and give those reading this a clear, concise, and comprehensive idea of just where infrared saunas can help them, and almost more importantly, where they cannot, lest time and money be wasted.
So What Exactly Are Infrared Saunas Good for in a Health & Weight Loss Context?
Infrared saunas have, in a relatively recent and short timeframe, exploded in popularity. Said boom owes itself in large part to the aforementioned claims, a large part of which we suspect to be unsubstantiated, chalked up to anecdotal evidence at most. While we’re not looking to burst any bubbles or ruin any fun, it’s important to have an actual, foundational understanding of technologies and methods like these lest you get sucked into something costly in terms of both time and money, only for it to turn out to be a barely-legitimate gimmick at best, and an outright scam at worst.
In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive look at just what infrared saunas are, how they work, what benefits they bring, so on and so forth. A front-to-back review. With that said, let’s dive into the first section.
The Ins and Outs: What Infrared Saunas Are and How They Work
In plain English: An infrared sauna is a type of sauna that uses an infrared heater to emit infrared light, which is experienced as radiant heat and absorbed by the surface of the skin. Infrared saunas differ from traditional saunas in the form in which they heat the subject, the latter using conduction and convection.
The infrared sauna has its origins in the late 19th century, with such prominent figures as King Edward VII of England and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany having their own for personal use. It wasn’t until the 1970’s however that the dwindling trend was revived in Japan, and it has since found worldwide use and acclaim.
Their alleged health benefits range far and wide, with claims working their way up from a slight improvement in blood flow to supposed cancer cell decomposition. Let’s take a magnifying glass to these claims and see just how well they hold up under scrutiny.
The Benefits of Infrared Saunas
There’s a reason infrared saunas have had such a boom in popularity in recent years. They work; in some aspects irrefutably, and in others, debatably. Let’s sift through the pros and make clear which are which.
As a raw list of primary benefits, we find:
- Improved Skin Tone
- Flushes Out Toxins
- Weight Loss
- Improves Cardiovascular Function
- Pain Relief
- Wound Healing
- Boosts Circulation
- Fights Chronic Fatigue
This list, however, an unrefined, as it is simply those benefits most touted. Let’s break these down and see which actually have some backing behind them, and which are to be taken with a grain of salt, or discarded entirely.
-Improved Skin Tone:
Backed by peer review evidence, which concluded that total soluble collagen was increased 2 hours after IR radiation exposure, relative to controls, and total content increased with the duration of IR radiation exposure as well.
-Flushes Out Toxins:
This claim, sadly, seems to have no actual literature to back it, and unsurprisingly so; anything that uses the buzzword “toxins” in a context such as this can almost immediately be brushed off.
Bit of a curveball here; we can indeed observe how continuous infrared sauna use did in fact lead to lesser BMI in test subjects compared to the control group, but, the keyword here is “weight”, which, while informally is implied to be fat in the context of weight loss, is referring to any and all weight in an academic context, which, in this case, meant body fluids. No increase in fat loss was measured through the use of infrared saunas. Myth busted, I’m afraid.
-Improves Cardiovascular Form:
While infrared saunas do indeed help improve health markers, there’s no indication of them granting any sort of performance boost, so this one, while not outright false, iiiiis pretty generously worded.
A bit too complex given the numerous varieties of pain and their root causes, but infrared saunas do in fact provide pain relief in specific cases, such as including knee OA, FM, and chronic myofascial pain.
In an oddly specific twist, it seems infrared saunas actually do help in recovery, for a rather specific type of wound: diabetic lesions!
While not generally having a massive effect on those already in good health, should once be suffering from a particularly poor level of overall blood flow, infrared light does indeed help through the stimulation of greater ATP production.
-Chronic Fatigue Improvement:
Last but not least, with an exciting outcome, patients given IR exposure therapy saw their chronic fatigue symptoms dramatically improve after 15 to 25 sessions of thermal therapy. A versatile tool indeed!
Now, this is a lot of information to take in, be it confirmation of unexpected benefits, or the dispelling of a myth you were hoping would prove true. Let’s take this information and condense it into something a bit more digestible, from which we’ll be able to draw a proper conclusion.
A Look At What We Can Actually Expect
Let’s format all that information above into a more concise table that we can refer to:
|Improved Skin Tone
|Flushes Out Toxins
|Chronic Fatigue Relief
So, what conclusions can we draw from this?
As stated in the above section, the benefits to be had from infrared sauna use aren’t to be overlooked. The health benefits are substantial, particularly if one is in any of the specific scenarios listed previously such as being currently wounded, suffering from chronic fatigue, or being a Type I or II diabetic. In such cases, the incorporation of infrared saunas into your routine will have a direct, palpable result.
On the other hand, if your goal lies in the realm of overall fitness, and particularly, weight loss, then sadly it seems that IR saunas just aren’t going to be the deus ex machina you’re looking for. Not directly at least.
Is an Infrared Sauna Going to Improve Your Health & Weight Loss?
In the last section, I specifically tagged “not directly” at the end. Why? Because it’s an important distinction to make.
No, infrared saunas do not outright increase fat burn. But perhaps you yourself suffer from a condition the pain of which can be relieved through IR. Or your circulation could use improvement. The chronic fatigue that’s bothering you could be done away with. Hell, maybe it’d clear up your complexion and get you motivated to get out more. The point is, something shouldn’t be scoffed at or tossed aside just because it doesn’t immediately fix our problem with tremendous efficiency.
Every little bit helps, realistically more than any large bit, because these smaller steps are real. In the real world, problem-solving means breaking things down into manageable portions and tackling them one by one. You fix something by snapping your fingers, you reverse engineer your way from the problem. You don’t get rich by playing the lottery, you work your way up one zero at a time. And you don’t burn fat by finding the right gimmick and reshaping yourself overnight, but by squeezing out every drop of anything that helps, and little by little inching your way closer to the goal at hand.
So infrared saunas aren’t going to solve your problems, but hey, give em a go regardless. Who knows what benefits they could bring, and where that could take you?
Speaking of Expensive Goodies
Let’s not get too caught up in the disillusionment of IR’s shortcomings, for there’s another expensive doo-dad that can fill that gap. Here at TheRazor, we’re having a giveaway! Click here to take part, and hopefully, we can help pick up where IR fell short.