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Infrared Sauna Health Benefits

What is all the hype about saunas? Read below to learn more about how including the use of an infrared sauna can help your health and what guidelines to follow to get the most benefits.

What does research say about the benefits of using an infrared sauna?

There is research that shows that frequent dry sauna bathing improves a variety of objective and subjective health markers. Here are some categories of health that saunas can improve:

  1. Cardiovascular disease and congestive heart failure

    1. This is one of the best studied benefits of using a sauna. One systematic review found that 19 of the 40 studies included had populations with active cardiovascular disease or increased risk of cardiovascular disease and ALL of these studies demonstrated improved health effects.

    2. Heat stress causes significant sweating that likely leads to hermetic adaptation and beneficial cardiovascular and metabolic effects.

    3. Risk reduction for sudden cardiac death (63%), all-cause mortality (40%), as well as for dementia (66%), and Alzheimer’s disease (65%) in men who used a sauna 4-7x/week compared to only once per week

  2. Rheumatic disease such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis

  3. Chronic pain and fatigue

  4. COPD

  5. Performance in athletes

    1. Intermittent post-exercise sauna bathing improves markers of exercise capacity in hot and temperate conditions in trained middle-distance runners

  6. Relaxation and stress reduction which could lead to improved sleep (aka better recovery!!)

  7. Circulation

  8. Skin health


In summary, regular infrared and/or Finnish sauna bathing has the potential to provide tons of health effects, especially for those with cardiovascular-related and rheumatological disease, as even athletes seeking improved exercise performance.

Joy Hussain and Marc Cohen in their research found, "The mechanisms for these effects may include increased bioavailability of NO (nitric oxide) to vascular endothelium, heat shock protein-mediated metabolic activation, immune and hormonal pathway alterations, enhanced excretions of toxicants through increased sweating, and other hormetic stress responses."

Currently there is insufficient evidence to recommend specific types of sauna bathing for specific clinical conditions. Even though regular sauna bathing is well-tolerated in the clinical setting with only minor and infrequent adverse effects reported, further data on the frequency and extent of adverse effects is required. Here is the link to "Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review" to learn more.

Best recommendations for optimal use of a sauna?

The overall evidence suggests that to get the optimal benefits from sauna sessions, it requires a frequency of 3–7 sessions per week with each session lasting approximately 15–20 minutes. 

a woman and a man in an infrared sauna relaxing and taking in the health and recovery benefits

Best recommendations would be to combine the use of sauna sessions with physical activity guideline recommendations. This comprehensive approach could make a huge difference in cardiovascular health, longevity, and overall well-being.

From a public health perspective, the widespread benefits of passive heat therapies suggest a need for better accessibility. Instead of just using saunas for a spa day, I believe it's important to start viewing them as a more frequently used tool for recovery. It is important that we advocate for more saunas to be included in facilities such as gyms, health care facilities, community centers, and more. Public health campaigns can highlight the ways that it can improve cardiovascular health, overall well-being, and longevity.

You can also read more about using passive heat therapies here.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully this inspires you to look for ways to incorporate a sauna into your weekly routine.

-Dr. Sieara Hinshaw



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