Infrared saunas have become wildly popular in the wellness world and for good reason. They offer many scientifically backed benefits such as improving circulation, reducing pain, boosting immunity, promoting relaxation and reducing stress. One proposed benefit that many people wonder about is weight loss. Can kicking back in an infrared sauna actually help you drop those unwanted pounds? In this article, we’re going to explore that very question, sharing accurate information based on our knowledge and the latest research. Let’s get started!
First things first, what exactly is an infrared sauna?
An infrared sauna is a type of sauna that uses light to create heat. Unlike traditional saunas which introduce steam through steam generators or by throwing water on hot rocks, infrared saunas don’t heat the air around you. Instead, they use invisible infrared light (a naturally-occurring part of the light spectrum) to warm your body from the inside out. Infrared saunas operate at a lower temperature than traditional saunas, allowing you to experience a more intense and longer sweat session with more comfort. For this reason many people find the infrared sauna a more relaxing and enjoyable experience.
Why are infrared saunas so powerful?
In recent decades, sauna bathing has emerged as a means to increase lifespan and improve overall health, based on compelling data from observational, interventional, and mechanistic studies.
The exposure to the heat in an infrared sauna, such as Koanna’s infrared sauna blanket, puts your body under stress—a good kind of stress! The heat stresses our system and forces it to adapt, a process known as hormesis (1). All organisms like to maintain homeostasis (or balance) and hormesis is ultimately about maintaining homeostasis in a changing environment.
Take weight lifting for example: when you lift weights (a form of stress), the body becomes stronger, healthier, and better in order to maintain homeostasis and handle the situation the next time it occurs. A similar thing happens when using an infrared sauna. When exposed to the heat, your body triggers adaptation processes that result in many health benefits.
Documented benefits of infrared saunas include:
- Stress reduction (1)
- Reduced depression (2)
- Relief from sore muscles (3)
- Relief from joint pain such as arthritis (4)
- Relief from chronic pain (5)
- Detoxification (6, 7)
- Wound healing (8)
- Lowered side effects of diabetes (9)
- Reduced symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (10)
Can infrared saunas help you lose weight?
While the above-mentioned health benefits are well-supported, research regarding infrared saunas and weight loss is more uncertain. It is common to lose some weight immediately following a sauna session, but this is just short-term loss due to the water you’re sweating out. Water weight aside, many people wonder if regular infrared sauna sessions can help them lose weight in the long term.
One small study conducted by Binghamton University in New York exposed people to an infrared sauna three times per week for 45 minutes (11). After four months, those who used the sauna had up to a four percent drop in body fat compared to the control group whose body fat did not change. While this is impressive and encouraging, it’s important to note that the researchers did not control the participants’ exercise or diet outside of the experiment, so it’s hard to say what was the true cause of their weight loss.
While more research clearly needs to be done, there are some educated theories about how infrared saunas can potentially aid in weight loss. Here are some well-documented infrared sauna effects that could logically play a role in helping people lose weight.
Increases heart rate and metabolism
Infrared saunas, such as Koanna’s infrared sauna blanket, penetrate the skin more deeply, causing your body’s temperature to increase from the inside out. As your body tries to cool itself, your heart rate and metabolic rate both increase without you even having to lift a finger.
The physiological responses to sauna use are very similar to those experienced during moderate to vigorous intensity exercise. In fact, sauna use has been proposed as an alternative to exercise for people who are unable to engage in physical activity due to chronic disease or physical limitations.
One study published in the International Journal of Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that the level of cardiac output exerted during a sauna session was similar to that experienced during moderate exercise (12). Pretty cool, huh? Some sources claim that a half-hour infrared sauna session is equivalent to 40 minutes of jogging and can burn 200 to 600 calories. While burning calories without exercising sounds amazing, more research needs to be done to validate that claim.
In our busy, modern world, stress is a part of everyone’s life. Stress is harmful to our health for a number of reasons, one being that it can lead to weight gain and difficulty losing weight (13). Stress is detrimental to our waistline for a number of reasons: it can cause us to overeat, make unhealthy food choices, and forego exercise. It can also increase our levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Getting a handle on stress is crucial if you want to drop those stubborn pounds. That’s where Koanna’s infrared sauna blanket comes in. Studies show that infrared sauna therapy can induce relaxation and reduce stress—and less stress means a better chance of losing weight (1).
Aids in exercise recovery
Does your workout leave you feeling sore? Relaxing in an infrared sauna may help you get back to the gym faster. One study published in Springerplus found that infrared sauna improved exercise recovery and reduced post-exercise soreness (3). Next time you feel those familiar aches, spend some time in your sauna so you can get back to moving your body and burning calories.
Infrared Sauna and weight cut applications in sport
Many athletes use the Koanna infrared sauna blanket to help them relax and regenerate after training. Additionally, those in the fight sport and body building arena use Koanna to help them cut weight for fights and competitions. The portable and flexible nature of an infrared sauna blanket is a big advantage for athletes, as it allows them to take their sauna with them wherever they go. This means athletes don’t need to worry about the cost, scheduling, or traveling associated with using public saunas. They can even take their sauna blanket with them to training camps or when travelling for competitions.
Koanna customer and Mixed Martial Arts athlete Artour writes “Would easily recommend to athletes to relax their muscles and for the body to be able to recover fast, but also very good for athletes who want to do weight cut for their sport”
The bottom line
While more research needs to be conducted in regards to weight loss, we know that infrared saunas trigger certain processes in the body, many of which could plausibly help you drop some pounds. Think of it this way: infrared sauna therapy offers so many health benefits such as reducing stress, releasing toxins, boosting immunity, improving skin, and relieving pain. If relaxing on your bed in your Koanna infrared sauna blanket helps you lose some weight on top of all of those incredible benefits, that’s just an extra bonus!
Regardless of possible calorie-burning effects, kicking back in an infrared sauna shouldn’t be a replacement for exercise. Still, the energizing and stress-relieving benefits alone make this wellness trend well worth exploring.
(1) Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5941775/)
(2) The effects of repeated thermal therapy for patients with chronic pain (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16088266/)
(3) Effects of far-infrared sauna bathing on recovery from strength and endurance training sessions in men (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4493260/)
(4) Infrared sauna in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. A pilot study showing good tolerance, short-term improvement of pain and stiffness, and a trend towards long-term beneficial effects (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18685882/)
(5) Infrared therapy for chronic low back pain: A randomized, controlled trial (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2539004/)
(6) Human elimination of phthalate compounds: blood, urine, and sweat (BUS) study (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23213291/)
(7) Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury in Sweat: A Systematic Review (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3312275/)
(8) The Application of Far-Infrared in the Treatment of Wound Healing (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871200/)
(9) The effects of repeated thermal therapy on quality of life in patients with type II diabetes mellitus (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20569036/)
(10) Effects of Waon therapy on chronic fatigue syndrome: a pilot study (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25748743/)
(11) Binghamptom University Weight Loss Study (https://infraredsauna.com/weightlossstudy.pdf)
(12) The blood pressure and heart rate during sauna bath correspond to cardiac responses during submaximal dynamic exercise (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31126559/)
(13) Stress and Weight Gain: Understanding the Connection (https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/stress-and-weight-gain)