Infrared sauna and health: Part 4. Infrared sauna alternatives

As I showed in the previous post in the Infrared sauna and health series, an infrared sauna trains many systems of our body. If we incorporate an infrared sauna in our lives, we can expect getting benefits from it, like prevention of heart diseases, soft and healthy skin, arthritis symptoms relief, stress reduction, improved circulation and others. But infrared saunas are expensive. Some people just don’t like heat. For someone it can be too boring to sit or lay for half an hour to get sauna session. Is there alternatives to an infrared sauna that can provide the same benefits? Who can do well without an infrared sauna and for whom it is a natural choice? Can other practices combine with infrared sauna sessions to enhance their effect?

Sure there is alternatives. You know most of them. To find activities that can provide us with comparable benefits one need to look at systems what are activated when an infrared sauna is taken and to remember what response our body gives to the heat. As I wrote earlier, our body reacts to heat and infrared radiation with vasodilatation, increased blood flow (circulation), higher heart rate, sweating and relaxing of our body muscles. Systems involved in this processes include cardiovascular, skin, blood vessels, lymph and others. So to achieve the same benefits that keeping these systems in good tone provides, we should undertake activities that work on the same systems of our body. These activities are almost any associated with a healthy lifestyle. I will provide some examples.

Traditional sauna. Taking a traditional Finnish sauna has similar effect with an infrared sauna, although it is more extreme – in a traditional sauna air temperature is very high and it is not recommended to stay in more than 5-10 minutes. An infrared sauna compared with traditional has milder effect.

Running. This activity has very similar effect. It stimulates cardiovascular system, promotes sweating. In addition, due to the constant shaking of our body when running, a lymph system is more stimulated than in infrared sauna. Running improves stamina. Muscle groups (especially legs) are also trained. Generally, running is more intense when an infrared sauna session and can be not suitable to old people, people with weak health or people with heart diseases.

Aerobics. Basically is similar to running, but concentrated more on dexterity, stretching exercises and working on different muscle groups.

Weight training. More intense than running and aerobics, works mostly on musculature and can be too heavy to unprepared person, although if prepared properly almost anyone can do it. Effects are similar.

Massage. Can be great in combination with infrared sauna. Relaxes, stimulates lymph movement. In a relaxed body effect of vasodilatation can be greater. On its own also provides numerous benefits, such as improved circulation, relaxation, reduced stress, pain relief.

Hot bath. Not sure about this one, but there is some signs that it can provide effect similar to an infrared sauna. However, not everyone finds them pleasant. Try it yourself to find out how it feels to you.

Contrast showers. Good stimulation of our cardiovascular system. However, sweat glands are not activated, so some benefits associated with detoxification don’t apply here.

This list can be continued with more activities. I think you’ve got the point. To get it more apparent look at this figure (click for a larger view).

This is an illustration how different activities can provide benefits similar to an infrared sauna by training the same systems of a human body.
This is an illustration how different activities can provide benefits similar to an infrared sauna by training the same systems of a human body.

Lets proceed to another question that was posed at the beginning of the post. Who can do well without an infrared sauna and for whom it is a natural choice? Answer to this question depends on your physical condition, you illnesses and your lifestyle. If your are a healthy and active person, who undertakes physical activity often, an infrared sauna is not a critical issue for you. Its absence probably won’t hurt your health. But you can still consider it if you like the experience.

If you are a healthy person, but seldom do any sport activities, you can consider an infrared sauna as one of possibilities to improve you lifestyle. Especially if you have little time to devote to it. To take an infrared sauna you don’t need to go out. You can multitask in it and save precious time.

If you are ill with any disease associated with symptoms an infrared sauna gives relief to, you can consult with your doctor about a possibility to add it to the list of you therapies. However, do not expect it to do miracles. In some cases, an infrared sauna is reported to provide a big improvement, but it doesn’t do anything extraordinary.

If you are an old person caring about risks of cardiovascular diseases, an infrared sauna can become gentle and effective training. However, it should first consulted with a doctor.

For children an infrared sauna is not necessary. I personally think that it is better to teach your children how to live a healthy lifestyle and to stimulate engagement in physical activities. However if won’t hurt if not overused.

Performance of an infrared sauna can be greatly improved by combining it with other activities. For example, it can be a massage session before the sauna, or some aerobic exercises. But do not hurry as such advanced combinations are for experienced users of an infrared sauna. Begin carefully and listen to your body when experimenting.

With this post I finish the Infrared sauna and health series, but there will be more posts concerning health questions later. I hope after reading these series you have a better understanding how an infrared sauna affects our health. The goal of these series was to help you learn the basic things. With knowledge of basic principles you can now make your own decisions about infrared saunas. I’m very interested in your opinion about these questions. Feel free to send me comments (under the posts or via contact form).

Read other parts of Infrared sauna and health series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

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2 Responses to “Infrared sauna and health: Part 4. Infrared sauna alternatives”

  1. Jerry Says:

    Hi,

    Interesting IR sauna background material on your site which I havn’t seen elswere.

    I want you to know that I have been living in Finland for 20 years. My 1st time user impression of the Finnish sauna was that it was quite uncomfortable to use but I quickly got use to the tempratures used and found that my general skin condition improved dramatically – almost all my acney problems dissapeared within the first month of use and have rarley returned. I like the ‘good sweat’ as it really does clean the body much more than the ‘English bath’ does. (after all, do you think you really get clean skin when you sit in a tub of your own dirt) ?

    Last weekend I had my first sauna session using a IR sauna. Yes, the same sweating occured and I stayed in the sauna longer than our Finnish sauna (in our home). I noticed the same evening that my skin had a nice red glow to it which looked as though I had sat in the sun for many hours, but I didn’t feel burnt. My skin felt smoother and not so dry than after the Finnish sauna. I could really feel my increase heart rate and I didn’t feel tired after a 20 min sauna session.
    After the IR sauna I had a swim. I managed to swim at least 5 mins longer than normally, so getting a better excersise session.

    We are considering installing an IR sauna in our home too, alongside our normal Finnish sauna which we use normally twice/week.

    Jerry,
    Finland

  2. Mary Says:

    I just purchased a cabon panel sauna. I am enjoying the experience. Being a person who does not sweat, I am thankful for the sensation. I have several medical conditions (being 60 yrs.) I am looking for arthritis, weight control, improvements. I use it for meditation. Only have CD for soothing music. I have only use 4 times, but I am inspired. The cedar smell is heavenly and I feel totally refreshed.