Cultures across the world have been using some form of sauna as a means of heat therapy for centuries – the Native American sweat lodges, Finnish saunas, Estonian smoke saunas, for example – and for good reason: they offer a wealth of health benefits; both physical and mental. What started as a means of survival (the first saunas were developed to provide protection from frigid temperatures) has become a staple practice for health and fitness, and in fact, is a part of the proud cultural heritage and a part of everyday life in many cultures around the globe. In Finland, for example (where it is believed that saunas originated around 2,000 BC), which is home to just over 5 million people, there are an estimated 3 million saunas, far exceeding the number of vehicles, which clearly illustrates the importance and value of sauna therapy.
Today, saunas can be found in spas, gyms, and households around the world. While the sauna benefits are the same today as they were thousands of years ago, in modern times, the technology that is used to heat them has advanced. Today, infrared saunas have become a big trend, and again, for good reason: they offer a long list of benefits. Whether you’ve been practicing heat therapy for a long time or you’re considering making it a part of your health and wellness routine, you may be thinking about giving an infrared sauna a try.
What is infrared sauna? What are the health benefits of infrared sauna? To learn more about this modern twist on heat therapy, keep on reading.
What is an infrared sauna?
To understand what in infrared sauna is and how it works, you first need to understand how a traditional sauna works.
Traditional saunas are rooms or chambers that are constructed of wood (typically cedar) and that feature heating elements; commonly gas or electric, though wood- and coal-burning stoves, similar to what were used in the first saunas, are still used. Regardless of the type of heating element, the objective is to increase the temperature of the room or chamber. Often, rocks are arranged on top of the heating elements, and water is poured on top of them to add steam and humidity to the air. The heated air then heats the body in a manner that is similar to the way an oven heats food, which triggers the body to produce sweat, and along with it, a wealth of health benefits.
An infrared sauna, like a traditional sauna, is also a room or chamber, but unlike traditional saunas, the heating element differs. Instead of a gas, electric, or wood- or coal-burning stove, infrared saunas are outfitted with panels that generate infrared waves. Infrared waves short wavelengths of light that the sun naturally produces; they’re responsible for the warmth sunshine generates. Instead of heating the air around you, infrared saunas directly heat the body, as infrared waves are absorbed through the skin.
What are the health benefits of infrared sauna?
So, what are the health benefits of infrared sauna? Below, we outline some of the most notable infrared sauna benefits.
They’re aren’t as hot
If you’re someone who doesn’t tolerate heat well, a traditional sauna may be too hot to stand. An infrared sauna, however, may be easier for you to tolerate, as they run cooler than traditional saunas. Why? - Because infrared saunas heat the body directly rather than the air, they run at a lower temperature than traditional saunas; the latter (traditional saunas) can reach temperatures that exceed 200 degrees F, whereas the former (infrared saunas) typically don’t exceed 160 degrees F.
Because of the lower temperature inside an infrared sauna, they are a more comfortable way to enjoy the benefits of heat therapy.
While it’s true that conventional saunas are an effective way to promote detoxification, evidence suggests that infrared saunas may be even more effective. Sweating is the body’s natural way of excreting toxins and pollutants that have accumulated in the blood, the tissues, and other parts of the body, and those toxins are excreted through the skin. In fact, this method of excretion is much more effective than urine and fecal excretion; particularly in regard to heavy metal excretion.
Studies indicate infrared light heat therapy removes more heavy metals, such as mercury and aluminum, than other types of heat therapy. Moreover, it also helps the body sweat out greater amounts of toxins, including alcohol, nicotine, and lipids. Additionally, when infrared waves interact with the body, the water molecules, where a large amount of pollutants are trapped, begin subtly vibrating. This mild vibration minimizes the ionic bands of water molecules, which elicits the rapid and easy release of toxins. Since up to 70 percent of the human body is comprised of water, it’s easy to see why infrared sauna therapy is so effective for detoxification.
Strengthens immune system response
Using an infrared sauna on a regular basis can boost immune system function. When the body is exposed to heat stress via infrared rays, the internal temperature increases, which mimic the effects of having a fever, the body’s natural response to infections, which promotes the destruction of harmful toxins that make you feel sick. Because time spent in an infrared sauna mimics the effects of a fever, your immune system gets a workout, so-to-speak. Additionally, the body releases heat shock proteins when your internal temperature increases, which also plays a role in the immune system strengthening process.
The more often this fever-like simulation occurs, the stronger your immune system will become, and the better equipped it will be to fight off illnesses. Studies indicate that those who practice infrared sauna therapy on a regular basis have a reduced rate of infections and diseases; in fact, some studies have found that regular infrared sauna users have a 50 percent reduction in the incidence of colds.
Reduced pain and inflammation
Infrared rays boost the body’s production of many different types of critical immune cells, such as white blood cells and t-cells. They also minimize muscle spasms and soreness and, reduce inflammation, and reduce the sensation of pain. Individuals who have been diagnosed with arthritis can see a marked pain reduction and increased range of motion. It can also help to reduce chronic back pain.
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To learn more about these and other benefits that are associated with infrared sauna therapy, contact us today, a leading Los Angles infrared sauna spa.