The infrared sauna is one of my top go-to wellness modalities I use to enhance my health, fitness, & performance. Traditional saunas have been used for centuries in various cultures around the world, but today many athletes and fitness enthusiasts like myself are turning to infrared saunas to enhance their health and fitness. In this blog post, we'll explore what an infrared sauna is, how it works, why it’s different, & 10 powerful ways it can enhance your health as well.
What Is An Infrared Sauna & How Does It Work?
An infrared sauna is a type of sauna that uses light to create heat. This type of sauna differs from traditional steam or dry saunas. Infrared is an invisible light wave that heats up the body directly as opposed to just using hot air or steam to warm up the body. The difference between these two types of heat is important because infrared waves penetrate more deeply into the body, allowing them to reach tissues not accessible by traditional forms of heat. This type of deep penetration has many potential health benefits.
#1 Improve Cardiovascular Health
Regular sauna use has been linked to improved cardiovascular health. Studies show that regular use of a sauna can dramatically lower risk of sudden cardiac death, reduce heart disease mortality, lower fatal cardiovascular & coronary disease, & reduce the risk of hypertension (1). This is due to increased circulation brought on by the heat of the sauna, which increases your heart rate and helps your body pump more oxygen-rich blood throughout your system.
#2 Improve Brain Health
Regular sauna use increases the expression of BDNF (Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factors). BDNF acts as a catalyst for chemicals that promotes better brain health. BDNF encourages neurogenesis, or growth of new brain cells & also protects your brain from degradation by repairing failing brain cells. BDNF helps the brain continue to communicate with the muscles. It also increases neuroplasticity, which is important for learning and long-term memory. Low BDNF has been linked with both depression and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
#3 Reduce Inflammation
Research shows that regular use of a sauna can help reduce inflammation in the body, which is thought to be one of the main contributors to many chronic diseases. Autoimmune conditions; digestive, brain, and hormone problems all have inflammation as their commonality. Infrared saunas are an effective, natural way to calm inflammation throughout the entire body.
#4 Improve Chronic Fatigue
After roughly 20 days of regular sauna use chronic fatigue study participants saw a significant improvement in their chronic fatigue (2).
#5 Boost Immunity
The heat in the sauna also helps increase immunity by stimulating white blood cells which are responsible for fighting off infection and illnesses. Raising body temperature in saunas can be an effective way to kill off bacteria, fungal, parasitic, & viral infections (3).
#6 Increase Longevity
Regular sauna bathing has been shown to considerably decrease risk of heart disease & leads to a lower chance of dying from all causes (4). Studies show that those who used saunas four to seven times a week have a 48% lower risk of dying from heart disease than those who used sauna once a week.
#7 Reduce Anxiety, Stress, & Depression
Relaxing in an infrared sauna gives you a chance to recharge & soothe stress levels. Studies have shown that regular sauna use can balance the brain-adrenal (HPA) axis (5). As previously mentioned, sauna use also increases BDNF, which helps with anxiety, depression, & mood.
#8 Enhance Cellular & Mitochondrial Health
Hormesis & or a short-term stressor (heat) on an organism is associated with several beneficial adaptations that promote cell health & survival. When we are undergoing heat therapy in an infrared sauna, the energetic needs of our mitochondria go up and they respond by using oxygen in the blood more efficiently. In one study, repeated exposure to heat stress for 6 days increased mitochondrial function by 28%, among other advantages (6). Increasing your core body temperature activates so-called “heat shock proteins”. Activating heat shock proteins on a regular basis increases longevity, aids in the creation of new blood vessels, & upgrades your mitochondria.
#9 Enhance Detoxification
We live on a heavily polluted planet & are exposed to numerous toxins & pollutants daily. Infrared helps increase circulation of the blood & lymphatic fluid. This helps facilitate the removal of toxins through sweat. You can sweat out 8x more toxins in an infrared sauna than a dry traditional sauna.
#10 Decrease Chronic Pain
Infrared heat can temporarily ease pain, tension, and stiffness even for those suffering from chronic painful conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, & chronic migraines (7). Increased thermal energy promotes a temporary increase in blood flow. Increased thermal energy may reduce stiffness, relieve tension, and increase range of motion.
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