Why Athletes (& Humans) Should Use Infrared Saunas
The term sauna is very familiar to most Americans: a dark, hot, and steamy room, that smells like eucalyptus and essential oils. However, most people haven't heard of an Infrared Sauna, let alone the term Infrared. In this post, we hope to clear away any confusion on Infrared Saunas, so you can feel more confident in jumping in one!
Infrared Saunas are dry saunas that incorporate Infrared rays to create a more effective and therapeutic experience.
Infrared Rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum and are a type of light ray that we cant see with the naked eye. Infrared Rays are emitted by the sun along with other rays.
Infrared Saunas also have three types of wavelengths that have varying benefits.
The three types of wavelength are Near, Mid and Far Infrared Waves. Each has its own benefit and we have each type of wavelength in our Infrared Sauna.
Near-Infrared is the shortest wavelength and will be absorbed just below the surface of the skin creating a sweat that promotes healing and revitalization.
Mid-infrared is a longer wavelength that can penetrate deeper into the body’s soft tissue increasing circulation, releasing oxygen to reach injured areas.
Far-infrared is the longest wavelength that penetrates the fat cells causing vasodilation, where the fat cells vibrate to expel toxins, resulting in the greatest levels of detoxification and stimulate your metabolism to aid in weight loss. All three together create a mentally and physically beneficial experience!
The Infrared Rays in the sauna don't heat the air that they hit, but instead, heat the object
inside the sauna. It's very similar to the feeling you get when you're relaxing outside during a chilly day and the sun hits you so that your body feels warm. And while the air can be hot in Infrared Saunas, especially as you start to approach 150°f, the feeling is very distant from a common wet/dry sauna. Because of this direct heat, the Infrared rays are able to penetrate our body more and therefore raise our core body temperature faster than a traditional sauna. This linked study shows that in a 30-minute session the core body temperature is increased to 100°f. This gradual and sustained body temperature leads to greater flexibility, circulation, cleansing, strength production, recovery, and calories burnt even outside the sauna.
Now that we have a general idea of how Infrared Saunas work, let's go into specific benefits:
The first benefit is increased recovery. A study done on power athletes during a period of 5 days with intense exercise showed that the overall recovery of the participants increased at around 120°f, allowing the athletes to perform better. The biggest attribute is the testosterone to cortisol levels seen in the study. Each athlete saw an increase in testosterone levels and a decrease in cortisol levels, allowing for a greater amount of recovery and performance. Not only will this increase in testosterone help you recover, but it will assist with muscle gain and weight loss, creating an incredibly strong benefit to adding regular infrared sauna use to your training regime. Adding consistent Infrared Sauna sessions during a very strenuous training block would yield much better results and greater recovery for just about any athlete or gym-goer.
Infrared Saunas also have a great benefit for people trying to improve their overall health. In this study, participants saw a decrease in blood pressure, an increase in heart health, and a reduction in waist circumference with regular use of an Infrared Sauna. It's clear combining Infrared Sauna use with a caloric deficit and a solid training program would yield would enhance any fitness enthusiast's weight loss goal. Not only do regular sauna sessions help with blood pressure and fat loss, but they also help detoxify the body of heavy metals. In this study, participants saw a reduction in the chemicals: Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury through the sweat during sauna use. All four of the metals serve little to no purpose in the body and in high amounts can have adverse effects on physical and mental health. Combine appropriate hydration and regular Infrared Sauna use and you won't be weighed down by those heavy metals.
If you're trying to get more mobile and have been struggling to touch your toes, with ankle
flexion, overhead mobility, or any other mobility check, an Infrared Sauna would be perfect for you. In this study, Dr. Olson, a professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery discovered that static stretches done in an Infrared Sauna will significantly increase mobility compared to being out of the sauna and doing the same stretches. The results were pretty drastic that, according to Dr. Olson, “It could take several weeks of flexibility training on a regular basis to achieve in the increased flexibility we saw in these brief sauna sessions".
We highly recommend everyone interested in improving their athletic performance and mental health add infrared saunas to their training regimen. Not only will you experience greater recovery, mobility, fat loss, and muscle gain, but also a stronger bill of health that will keep your skin glowing and your internal systems running!