Benefits of Infrared Sauna
Are you looking for an effortless way to change your health? Relaxing in a sauna will not only break a sweat, but also lead to improved cardiovascular function, better skin, reduced symptoms of depression, and weight loss.
A 2016 clinical trial found that even a single session of whole-body hyperthermia provided significant improvement for people with depression. And a 2015 epidemiological study showed a 24% reduction in all-cause mortality associated with sauna use 2-3 times per week, and 40% reduced all-cause mortality with 4-7 sauna sessions per week! Thirty minutes in an infrared sauna can even burn roughly 600 calories!
So, how does it work?
Sauna use has some of the effects of exercise. Heart rate goes up, body temperature rises, and sweat glands go to work. An intense sauna session can boost heart rate up to 150 beats per minute, comparable to moderately intense exercise.
At the molecular level, where your body’s cells are aging, many things happen in response to sauna use, and some of it depends on the type of sauna, whether it be infrared sauna, dry sauna, or steam room.
All sauna types make your body generate molecules called heat shock proteins (HSPs), which proliferate when genes are activated in response to heat stress. HSPs protect and repair cellular proteins, whose 3-dimensional structures are damaged in the course of daily living and environmental stressors, such as metabolism and UVB radiation. Damaged proteins often accumulate to induce cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, so HSPs are an important line of defense for many of the most destructive processes of aging. Such “hyperthermic conditioning” was even shown to increase the lifespans of flies and worms by about 15%!
In the case of infrared saunas, which operate at lower temperatures while heating your body from the inside using infrared wavelengths of the light spectrum that are invisible to the human eye, additional benefits accrue. Thermoreceptors in your skin and some organs experience a gentle radiant heat. As your cells up to 1.5 inches beneath your skin absorb the infrared light energy, they convert it to thermal energy, heating up your body’s tissues, so that you begin to sweat at much lower (and more comfortable) external temperatures than with traditional saunas.
Sauna use has also been shown to increase blood concentrations of growth hormone, which boosts wound healing and recovery after exercise, and beta-endorphins, which promotes feelings of well-being and binds to the same μ-opioid receptors as the pain-blocking drug morphine. Additionally, the heat stress of sauna use turns on the FOXO3 gene, widely considered a longevity gene for its ability to repair DNA, kill damaged cells, and prevent cellular senescence.
For all of these reasons, sauna might be one of the best investments you can make in your health and can improve longevity!