Many people will tell you that they just plain feel good when they are sweating. From hot yoga and intense workouts to saunas and steam rooms, something about a full on sweat makes a lot of people feel healthy. As it turns out, extended exposure to heat, and the sweat factor that goes along with it, is scientifically proven to be exceptionally good for overall health and longevity. The benefits include some you might already know:
- Pain Relief
- Possible weight loss
And some you may not be so aware of:
- Tissue oxygenation
- Lower blood pressure
- Increased circulation
Infrared saunas use far spectrum heat that penetrates at a level up to three times deeper than the heat from traditional saunas. It is this deep penetration that most effectively stimulates metabolic activity. In addition, the temperature is lower than a traditional sauna, which makes it more tolerable to spend longer lengths of time in the heat—sweating. Since maximum benefits from heat therapy are achieved by spending at least 20-40 minutes at the elevated temperature 4-7 times per week, this is a big plus.
How does someone fit in 30 minutes in the infrared sauna 4-7 times a week? I have one at my gym and, even though I am a huge believer in making this a part of my regular health routine, I just can’t make it there that often. So, I am seriously considering buying one for my house. The great news is that they are relatively small and easy to install. They run through a regular electrical outlet and, according to anyone I know who has one, they do not significantly increase your electrical costs. I do not have one yet, but I’ve done extensive research. I have included the links to the three that I am considering at the bottom of the blog. While certainly not cheap (they run anywhere from $800-$2000), the benefits to my overall health might just make it the best investment I will make this year.
Important as you get started:
- Start slow and build up. Start out at no more than 5 minutes and build up gradually each time;
- You may not sweat a lot at first, but as you build up the length of time you spend in the heat your body will naturally begin to release more toxins;
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after your sauna. Remember you will be sweating, so it is imperative that you keep hydrated during and re-hydrate after each session;
- Listen to you body. Personally, once you have been doing this for awhile I recommend that you push your body past the comfort zone by one minute. The stress that this causes on the body is good stress—hormesis—and it will enhance the overall health benefits. Think of that last uncomfortable minute as meditation. Focus on your breathing and count down just 60 seconds. Your body will thank you in the long run.
- Consider a cold shower afterwards. The double stress to the body will help to increase overall metabolic activity.
Above and beyond, enjoy the experience! One of the side benefits I’ve discovered is that during these sessions I actually get 30 minutes of down time. I read, meditate, simply spend a bit of quiet time—all things I never give myself time for in my daily life. It is nice!