Infrared Sauna Treatments

Monday, 1 December 2008 | Tags: , ,

When it comes to trying to keep fit and trim, it's hard not to resist the promise of a quick fix. Infrared saunas claim to burn 300-500 calories per half hour session. We visited a spa in Vancouver to put that to the test.

The Basics

Samantha Diotte of Spruce Body Lab explained to us the benefits promised by the infrared sauna treatments:

  • Traditional steam saunas raise the temperature of the air within the sauna chamber in order to indirectly warm the body. Some people find it hard to breathe the hot air in steam saunas, and the atmosphere can be prone to bacteria cultivation. The air temperature gets up to about 80F.

  • Infrared saunas are different from traditional steam saunas in that they do not heat the air. Instead, infrared light heats the skin directly, penetrating the skin and muscle tissues up to 4cm deep. It’s much easier to breathe in an infrared sauna, and it’s also a more sanitary environment since there’s no steam or humidity. The air temperature gets up to only 50F.

  • Beneficial claims of the infrared sauna include:

    • Weight loss due to the speeding up of the body’s metabolic process, which causes toxins to be purged from the body through perspiration.

    • Improved circulation, increased energy, improved cardiovascular health as a result of raising of the heart rate, which helps send blood toward the extremities without increasing blood pressure.

    • Improved immunity as a result of an “artificial fever” which boosts natural immunity and helps the body ward of invading organisms

    • Relaxation and stress reduction as muscle tissue loosens with the heat, especially good pre-massage. Post-massage, infrared sauna is said to help muscles continue the lactic acid flush, thereby preventing excess stiffness and soreness the next day.

Backed by Science?

The burning question we had throughout our research was whether the claims of the infrared sauna are backed by science. We went to kinesiologist James Wendland of Kinesiologists.ca, who studies physiology and anatomy. James’s says that the weight loss, ranging anywhere from .3-1kg per session, is not a very significant claim since the body can lose that much weight in water normally, as well as through traditional sauna treatments.

Test Lab Notes

We tested the infrared sauna ourselves by going for a session everyday for a week. We weighed ourselves at the beginning and at the end of the week to see if we lost any weight.

The Overall Experience

  • When you’re sitting inside the sauna, you can’t see the infrared rays because they’re invisible, but you sure can feel the heat on your skin.

  • We both really enjoyed the sessions, found it very relaxing. It felt good on our muscles and seemed to loosen things up.

Weight Loss Test

  • Anna lost 1.4 pounds in a week, which sounds significant, but could also be chalked up to water loss through perspiration, which will occur whether you’re in an infrared sauna or a traditional steam sauna.

  • Kristina didn’t lose anything!

Does the infrared sauna get the A&K Stamp of Approval?

Overall we enjoyed our infrared sauna treatments. While we don’t think you’ll achieve any permanent weight loss, it might temporarily help you drop a pound or two, and it will definitely make you feel relaxed.

Plus, if you’re someone who is uncomfortable in traditional steam saunas, you may enjoy the lower heat and dryer air of the infrared treatment.



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