Saunas have been used for thousands of years to provide humans relief from aches and promote relaxation throughout the body through the production of dry heat from stoves or hot rocks, with the room reaching up to 200 degrees.
They’re found at gyms, resorts, wellness centers and private homes, especially in Finland, where there’s the equivalent of one sauna per home.
The infrared sauna is a slightly less hot alternative that has shot up in popularity over the last decade or so; its heat comes from infrared lighting, which gradually heats your body directly, rather than by heating the air around it. This is a big benefit for people who can’t tolerate the more intense heat produced by traditional saunas but want the same benefits.
The heat from any type of sauna increases your heart rate, dilates your blood vessels and triggers profuse sweating — the same reaction your body has to low- to moderate-intensity exercise. Your skin temperature can reach 150 degrees, but your core body temperature will not increase by as much as in a traditional sauna.
Many users report they have a mood-boosting effect.
Many positive health benefits have been attributed to infrared saunas. Researchers have found some of these claims debatable, but most agree your physical health will see some gains as a result of the 30- to 60-minute sweat sessions available at spas offering this service including some in Sedona, Prescott, Prescott Valley and Flagstaff.
These saunas can be helpful with:
- Pain reduction — Several studies have found time spent in infrared saunas can reduce inflammation and pain in those who have rheumatoid arthritis.
- Heart health — Rigidity in blood vessels, known as arteriosclerosis, is one of the major risk factors for heart disease because it forces the heart to pump harder to circulate blood throughout your circulatory system. Sessions in an infrared sauna are believed to soften arterial walls and lower blood pressure, possibly due to a reaction between the infrared heat and the water in human tissue.
- Skin health — The heat of these saunas forces your pores to open, which can allow dirt, dead cells, oil and other debris to be carried away by your perspiration.
- Detoxing — This is probably the most common benefit claimed by those trying to sell us on the advantages of infrared saunas, and some impurities can be released from the body through our sweat, but not to the degree advocates claim. The heavy-duty detoxing our body is capable of is handled by the kidneys and the liver. Exercise can also play a role by burning fat and the toxins it contains, but perspiration alone won’t do the job.In-home infrared spas can be purchased, as well as blankets that mimic some of their effects. Their use poses little to no risk for healthy people, though overuse can lead to dehydration and overheating.Anyone who has heart, kidney or another preexisting disease, takes medication, has low blood pressure or has high or low sensitivity to heat should consult their physician before using any infrared sauna.