Saunas are a great way to relax and have been enjoyed by people for thousands of years, a trend that shows no sign of letting up. However, many people are curious if saunas can allow them to burn more calories, help them with weight loss, or provide them with any other health benefits.
After some extensive research, we have come up with the answer to these questions and more, all of which are detailed below.
How Many Calories Do You Burn In A Sauna?
Although a fair amount of research has been conducted on the topic, scientists are far from arriving at a consensus. Some estimate that as many as 300 calories are burned in a half-hour session, whereas others put the number as low as 25.
The human body is constantly working to maintain its ideal core temperature, a property that separates mammals from other classes of animals. When placed in an environment of extreme heat, such as a sauna, the body begins to cover itself in sweat to bring the body temperature down to a more manageable level. In order to pass water through pores in the skin, the body has to increase its metabolic rate, which, as most know, requires an increase in the number of calories being burned.
So, while the question of how many calories do you burn in a sauna does not have a clear or agreed-upon answer, we know that a person sitting inside a sauna will burn more than the same person sitting down at room temperature.
In fact, many health professionals agree that the average person will burn 1.5 to 2 times the number of calories in a sauna than they otherwise would all other things being equal. Because of this, we can say that saunas are effective in burning calories, just not as much as some people would like.
Can Saunas Help You Lose Weight?
One other common question people have regarding saunas is if regular use can help you lose weight. This question is much simpler to answer but requires us to cover a few basic points.
First off, most people do come out of a sauna session weighing a few pounds less than they did before they entered. However, this weight loss is not a result of fat burning but rather water weight lost due to heavy sweating. How much weight you lose while sitting in a sauna depends primarily on the length of your session and how much you sweat. Furthermore, any weight loss that occurs during a sauna session is quickly regained once the individual rehydrates.
Secondly, while the number of calories burned while sitting in a sauna is higher than the number burned while at rest in a room-temperature environment, the change is not significant enough to cause the burning of fat reserves. Instead, individuals concerned with losing weight should focus on heavy to moderate exercise mixed with healthy eating and creating a set of weight loss goals.
So, in short, while saunas do increase the number of calories burned, they are not an effective way to lose weight.
What Health Benefits Do Saunas Have?
Just because a sauna session isn't an effective way to lose weight doesn't mean that it doesn't have other health benefits.
Increased Heart Health
A Finish study followed sauna users over 21 years and found that those who participated in regular sauna sessions had lower rates of stroke and heart disease than those who didn't. While the study didn't speculate on the reason for their finding, a Harvard medical school paper suggested that the increase in blood flow and expansion of arteries typical during a sauna session helps clear the arteries of plaque and other build-ups.
A Good Way To Detoxify Your Body
Whether it be an electric sauna or a classic steam room, the increased sweating that results is thought to help the body rid itself of toxins and contaminants. In fact, perspiration is the only way the body can remove certain heavy metals from its system, something that dry heat is very good at inducing.
Sitting In A Sauna Aids In Muscle Recovery
Anyone who engages in regular exercise is very familiar with sore muscles, something regular sauna use can help with. For anyone who thinks this is a bit unbelievable, recall that we often apply heat to muscle injuries as a treatment method, primarily because it improves circulation and allows the bloodstream to deliver oxygen and nutrients faster and more efficiently.
While a traditional sauna is great for muscle recovery, infrared saunas are even better because the infrared rays heat the body from the inside, ensuring that all muscles and joints are hit equally.
Saunas Can Provide Relief From Chronic Pain
Chronic pain, especially in the joints, is an issue that many people suffer from. Luckily, studies have demonstrated that a half an hour sauna session can effectively reduce the severity of joint pain and other chronic conditions.
Regular Sauna Use Decreases Stress
Because of its relaxing nature, regular sauna use has been known to reduce stress and improve overall mental health. When people are stressed, cortisol levels increase, which makes people want to increase their calorie intake. So, while saunas don't help people lose weight directly, they can help them maintain a healthy weight by lowering stress levels.
Types Of Saunas
Throughout the years, different types of saunas have been created, the most common of which include:
Electrically Heated Sauna
Electric saunas are clean and can quickly reach temperatures as high as 194 F (90 C). As the name implies, these types of saunas use an electric heater to produce heat. Their main drawback is they're not very energy efficient and are considerably more costly to run than other types.
Steam rooms are one of the most classic types of saunas and are still in use today, especially in Europe. Most steam saunas function by applying a heat source to a collection of rocks and dumping a few glasses of water over it, causing steam to fill the room.
A steam room is not a dry heat type of sauna and causes water vapor to collect on your skin, making you feel much hotter than you actually are.
Infrared saunas use light waves and electromagnetic radiation to penetrate deep into your body, causing you to heat up from the inside, not the outside. These types of saunas are the most common type you would find in people's homes because they are clean, moisture-free, and easy to install.
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DIY/Premade Sauna Kits
Installing a brand new sauna can cost more money than some are willing to spend. Because of this, some have decided to build their own DIY Saunas or purchase a premade sauna kit. If you want the luxury of a home sauna without spending big bucks, this is an excellent option.