It’s likely that you’ll have come across a fair number of discussions about infrared saunas and weight loss, and seen many sauna manufacturers promote weight loss as one of the numerous benefits users can expect to enjoy. Infrared saunas undoubtedly contribute positively to many aspects of overall health, but when it comes to weight loss, should you believe the manufacturers’ claims?
As you’d expect, when it comes to the age-old longing to find a quick, easy and hassle free way of losing weight, there are no miracles to be discovered! Unfortunately it’s a fact of life that there is no quick fix or easy win in the quest to shed pounds. Achieving weight loss predominantly requires a healthy lifestyle overall, with a balanced diet and plenty of physical exercise.
But that’s not to say that an infrared sauna doesn’t contribute at all to a person’s weight loss journey. It’s really a question of having realistic expectations (i.e. don’t imagine that after a few sessions in an infrared sauna you’ll emerge toned, lean, 30 pounds lighter and ready to audition for a swimwear modelling agency!). So what's up with infrared saunas and weight loss?
In a very simplistic (and not all that useful) sense, a session in an infrared sauna can cause you to lose weight - but only in a very short-term, superficial way because the weight loss you experience is purely from the water you sweat out. Once you re-hydrate with a drink after a sauna, any ‘weight’ you just lost will come right back into your body again. But that’s not the point of a sauna (and also shouldn’t be a weight loss goal, given how short lived it is).
So when it comes to the actual loss of excess physical weight, just sitting in an infrared sauna isn’t going to achieve the desired effect of meaningful, sustainable weight loss. But - the heat generated within your body by an infrared sauna does cause increased blood flow and therefore improved circulation to and from your muscles and organs (alongside the more well-known result of a sauna: sweating). These are the same reactions experienced in the body during exercise - and it’s these reactions that cause the body to consume energy (i.e. calories). Burning calories does equate to losing weight.
Better circulation also equals better health, and increased energy too ... so even if a sauna session doesn’t actually make you lose weight, it could just help to give you the energy boost you need to go for that run, or jump in the pool, or sprint up the stairs instead of taking the elevator!
So, the magical claims about infrared saunas and weight loss may not quite ring true under close scrutiny, but an infrared sauna’s contribution to overall health and well-being definitely shouldn’t be underestimated. In addition to improved circulation, here are just a few more examples of how an infrared sauna can benefit your physical health:
The soothing, healing and restorative powers of heat will relax your muscles and joints, in turn releasing tension and stress from within the body, leaving you feeling more supple and agile. Incidentally, taking time out to have an infrared sauna session can be a therapeutic exercise for your mind too, as you have a break from whatever daily task is always next on your list to be done!
When your body and mind are relaxed, overall stress levels are reduced, which is important because stress is often cited as a factor that prohibits weight loss. When you’re stressed, your body is charged with specific hormones that keep it in an alert ‘fight or flight’ state, which can make losing weight less easy to achieve. So, reducing stress levels means your hormones are better regulated, and you have a greater chance of successfully dropping those pounds.
While you relax and unwind, the sauna’s ability to improve blood circulation in your body means you can emerge feeling refreshed, re-energized, and ready to take on the world again. When your muscles are less tense, you’ll find it easier to move about too - so while there’s no direct link between infrared saunas and weight loss, an infrared sauna can improve your body’s ability to exercise, making physical activity easier to manage overall.
Recovering from injuries
If you’re recovering from an injury, an infrared sauna can help to increase your ability to gradually begin to exercise again. It’s the same theory as above; the infrared heat helps to release tension from taught, tightened muscles and joints, thereby helping them to relax and become more flexible. This means you should find it easier to move and stretch the injured area with reduced levels of pain.
For those who are unable to exercise
There is another link between infrared saunas and weight loss. Some people, for various reasons, are physically unable to exercise. Whether for a short or an extended period of time, a predominantly sedentary lifestyle can lead to health complications. For people who aren’t able to exercise, an infrared sauna can be invaluable because the benefits of improved circulation - as afforded by exercise - are readily available in a comfortable, non-demanding environment.
In reality ...
... claims about infrared saunas and weight loss shouldn’t feature highly when you’re exploring the merits of infrared saunas in general. But, you can be sure that infrared saunas can play a very positive role in the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.
As we’ve seen, infrared saunas improve your circulation, helping your muscles and organs to function more efficiently and effectively. Combine this with a nutritious, balanced diet and sensible (and manageable) levels of physical exercise, and you’re onto a winner! A session in an infrared sauna offers many further positive benefits for your physical and mental health in general, and can certainly sit comfortably within any kind of healthy lifestyle program (even if it does mean that you still need to jump on your bike or hit the yoga mat to lose that weight!).