Are Infrared Saunas the Future of Wellbeing and Post-Workout Recovery?
The world of wellbeing is a constantly evolving beast. One year, crystals are seeing a resurgence, the next gong baths are en vogue. We’re very much of the opinion here at Form that if it brings you joy and you can feel the benefits then go for it. We’re all on this journey to feeling like the best version of ourselves, whether you’re biohacking your way there, or just trying to get back to sleep.
One development that is whipping up a storm in the world of wellbeing at the moment is the regular use of infrared saunas, with fans including heavyweight boxing champ Anthony Joshua, wellbeing icon Gwyneth Paltrow and Form co-founder Natalia Bojanic.
“I don’t like steam rooms or traditional saunas, so initially I didn’t really buy into the concept of infrared saunas until I experienced the benefits of infrared heating panels during a hot yoga class,” says Bojanic. “After the classes I would feel so relaxed, but at the same time energised. I felt lighter and happier. My sleep was sound and I would wake up the next day with lovely skin.
“Normally I wouldn’t feel nearly as good after a regular yoga class, so I started to believe that these infrared waves definitely had special powers. I then started using infrared saunas on a daily basis and began to really experience the long term benefits of detoxifying the body regularly.”
Where do you sign up? Well, as with everything, before you plunge yourself into an infrared sauna, it’s best to do some research. To save you the Google deep dive, we’ve put everything you need to know into this handy guide, with expert advice from Maria Ensabella, founder of treatment centre and wellness haven LondonCryo.
A History Of The Infrared Sauna
Traditional saunas have long been used for their therapeutic abilities. Some 1500 years ago, ancient Mayans would use something called a temazcal, a kind of dry sauna built of volcanic rock and shaped like a dome (these sweat lodges are still used by indigenous people in Central America). Another fun fact: there is a sauna for around every two people in Finland, totalling a mega two million of the hot rooms across the country.
Infrared saunas came along with developments in infrared technology in the 1960s, when NASA, undertaking research into infrared for its space program, found out how to produce far infrared rays, a specific region in the infrared spectrum of electromagnetic radiation that does not cause harm to human skin.
It was Dr J H Kellogg, a Japanese doctor, though, who received the first patent in 1965 for a ceramic far infrared heater, which he began to use for healing in a similar way to how traditional saunas have been used for thousands of years.
How Does An Infrared Sauna Work?
The Finnish don’t recognise the infrared versions that were first popularised in Japan in the 1980s as ‘saunas’ though, but we’ll leave the semantics and skip on to the specific differences.
“While traditional saunas raise the air temperature inside and then heat the body through heat exchange, infrared saunas use infrared light to heat the body directly, meaning that waves penetrate into the body for a deep heating action,” says Ensabella.
“Infrared saunas are also dry while traditional saunas are humid. Infrared heat is preferable for people with breathing issues or those who do not like humid environments. The perception of heat in an infrared sauna is also less because of this lack of humidity. Think dry heat. Heat intolerant clients can usually use an infrared sauna then because the ambient air is not excessively hot.”
The Benefits Of Using Infrared Saunas
As well as the benefits for those largely intolerant to heat, there are also advantages besides those that can be had via a traditional sauna.
“One of the best benefits of infrared heat is its ability to heat the body directly at a lower temperature,” says Ensabella. “As the body’s core temperature increases, it triggers processes such as detoxification, improved blood circulation and stress reduction. This is technically referred to as hyperthermic conditioning and it occurs when body temperature is increased over a short period of time.
“Inside the infrared sauna your heart rate increases and blood vessels dilate leading to an increase in blood circulation and sweating, as if you have been exercising. The sweat glands offer one of only a few mechanisms that the body has to eliminate toxins, therefore there are numerous health benefits.”
There have been a number of studies undertaken on these potential benefits. A 2015 study undertaken by Finnish researchers found that deep penetration of infrared heat with mild temperature (35–50°C), and light humidity (25–35%) was beneficial in aiding muscle recovery and decreasing muscle soreness after a bout of high endurance exercise.
Another 2015 study out of Kagoshima University in Japan found that people with chronic fatigue syndrome benefited from using an infrared sauna as part of their overall treatment. If you’re looking to boost your recovery times then, infrared might be the way to go.
Things To Remember
Build Up Your Tolerance
Start slow and don’t fly into an hours long sweat sesh on your first go. “At LondonCryo, we recommend doing 25 minutes if you are new to saunas,” says Ensabella, “and build up to a 45 minute session.”
Your sweating buckets here, so you’re going to need to put back in what has just come out. “The main thing to keep in mind before a session is to stay hydrated,” says Ensabella. “It’s also important to keep fluid intake up in the infrared sauna session. We provide you with a jug of water, and follow it with electrolytes after a sauna.”
Keep Clear Of Alcohol The Night Before
Following on from the point above, you might want to lay off the booze before heading in. A killer hangover will just leave you extra dehydrated; not what you need when you’re about to dehydrate yourself further.
Sit Up Straight
While you can certainly lie down if you like, sitting up straight will mean the infrared heaters are aimed directly at the front and back of your body. This will help you to absorb as much of the infrared as possible.
Wash Away The Toxins
Sweating is one of your body’s main natural detoxification processes, and if you hadn’t guessed already, you’ll be sweating a lot. So take 10 minutes after your infrared sauna session to wash away all that gunk you have just sweated out so your skin doesn’t re-absorb it. Plus a cold shower and all its benefits will help bring your body to its core temperature.
Use the discount code form10 for 10 percent off your infrared sauna session when booking at londoncryo.com