What is a sauna? A sauna is a room that is heated to temperatures of 65.6-90.6 degrees Celsius (150-195 degrees Fahrenheit). Some saunas are dry while some are of the steam style.
Typically, people spent about 15-30 minutes in a sauna (1).
Also, the way the body reacts to the sauna is the same even with varying humidity and temperature levels (1).
Saunas often have wood interiors that are not painted and with temperature controls. Rocks may be used to form a part of the heating element to absorb and give heat up (4).
Sometimes, a quantity of water is poured on the hot rocks to emit steam.
The Finnish style saunas normally make use of dry heat while Turkish saunas use steam (4).
What Is The Origin Of Sauna?
Sauna is a Finnish word that means a bathhouse or bath (8).
Saunas have been used in Finland for over 2000 years from where they were invented. It is a part of the lifestyle of the people and a very integral part of healthy living as well as activities in the community (8).
It is believed by researchers that the Nomadic Finns enjoyed sauna thousands of years ago, they used it to cleanse and rid their bodies of toxins as well as to feel relaxed and rejuvenated (3).
In Finland, saunas are found in homes, community centers and business environments where most adults take it regularly, and much information regarding the safety of sauna comes from there as well (8).
However, the Finnish settlers may have brought the sauna to America in the 1600s and they come in various forms such as the steam baths and steam rooms (8).
Saunas have become very common in several cultures and countries, for instance, the Russian Banyas combines the elements of steam rooms and Turkish saunas while Sentos in Japan are warm or hot pools (8).
What Are The Various Types Of Sauna?
Wood burning: This method makes use of burning wood to heat the sauna rocks, producing low humidity as well as dry heat. Water is poured on the rocks every 10 minutes to reinforce the humidity and heat of the room (8).
The wood-burning sauna is typically a Finnish sauna that has a high room temperature and humidity (2).
Electric Saunas: These saunas have an electric heater that is mounted on the floor to heat the room. There are high temperatures and low humidity (1).
A lot of gyms and health clubs use the electric saunas as the dry heat and resulting low humidity is the same as that of the wood-burning sauna (8).
Steam: They are otherwise known as Turkish baths, they are steamy and humid (2).
This type of sauna uses boiling water to generate wet heat and the resultant high humidity (8).
The infrared sauna uses lamps to generate electromagnetic radiation to heat only your body. They are of lower heat when compared to other types, normally around 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) (8).
Can Sauna Help You Lose Weight?
Nowadays, some people still use a sauna for not just detoxification and relaxation, but for weight loss as well (3).
Sauna could cause only a little bit of weight loss, though this happens only when you are in the sauna. However, once you step out and drink water, the weight returns (1).
Higher temperatures in the sauna cause your heart rate to increase in a way that is similar to exercise, this causes a slight increase in calories burnt than at rest (1).
Saunas could help you burn a few extra calories but it may not be effective as a real weight loss tool (1).
Science, as well as research, has proven that sauna for weight loss works and it can be compared to moderate-intensity workout (2).
Increasing your body’s heat helps you burn extra calories and a doctor of physical therapy says sauna increases your metabolic rate by about 20 %. This causes you to continue burning calories long after leaving the sauna (3).
Also, the temperature increase makes your heartbeat 30% faster, resulting in the need for your body to burn more calories for energy (3).
Because the weight you lose in a sauna is water weight, it is not permanent as when you rehydrate yourself, you gain it back.
However, wrestlers and boxers use this method to quickly shed some pounds and make the cut for a particular weight class (3).
How Many Calories Can A Sauna Help You Burn?
To calculate the number of calories burned in a sauna, here is the formula used
: Number of burned calories in 30 minutes ( which is with regards to your body weight) x 1.5 and 2.
So, if a 150 pounds woman burns about 30 calories in 30 minutes of sitting in a sauna, the number of calories burned equals 45- 66 calories.
However, this is just an estimate and the weight loss in a sauna is just water weight. Moreover, you are not building your muscles in any way and the weight will be regained when you rehydrate (3) (9).
How To Effectively Lose Weight Using A Sauna
Just because sauna for weight loss is effective does not mean it is magic, to achieve that, you are advised to schedule your sauna visits based on your current weight and target weight.
To start your sauna for weight loss, you should get a sauna 2-3 times a week and you will begin to feel refreshed and more energetic after about 2 weeks, then you must include a light exercise in your everyday routine (2).
Now for the next three weeks, you should get a sauna 2 times a week then you include cardio and strength training in your workout routine to help relax and rejuvenate your muscles (2).
What Are The Health Risks Associated With Sauna For Weight Loss?
Sauna may sound like an easy way to lose weight but you must know that all necessary precautions must be adhered to avoid any harmful consequence.
Here are some of the issues associated with sauna.
A critical issue in a sauna is how to minimize dehydration by balancing water lost in the form of sweat with fluid consumption (5).
High heat causes your body to sweat and lose body fluids. When you lose more water than you take in, you risk getting dehydrated (1).
The weight that you lose in a sauna is a good measure of the volume of water to be replenished. Also, a kilogram of body mass corresponds to a liter of fluid perspired (5).
A Polish study conducted on students with a sedentary lifestyle showed a significant correlation between body mass index and body mass loss.
Additionally, the study revealed that those with high body mass indexes are more prone to dehydration so, they should take adequate fluid after a dry sauna (5).
Because severe dehydration is a medical emergency, you should pay great attention to your body and drink lots of water when you use a sauna (1).
The signs of dehydration to look out for are:
- Being extremely thirsty
- Dryness of the mouth
- A small volume of urine with reduced frequency.
Those at higher risk of dehydration include people with chronic conditions like heart failure, kidney disease, and diabetes, pregnant women and older people (1).
What Are The Other Health Benefits Of Sauna?
Getting a sauna can be the best part of not just your weight loss routine but also your gym workout, it can be enjoyed during a vacation and getting one many time a week could help reduce minor aches as well as provide you health benefits and relaxation (4).
Here are the other health benefits you stand to enjoy with a sauna.
Helps In Losing Water Weight
When you do a mixed workout routine and then restrict your diet, it can take you about 7 days to lose your water weight which makes up about 5 pounds of your total body weight.
However, getting a sauna helps you sweat heavily thereby removing this excess water from your body. This helps you lose a few pounds in one or two days (2).
Good for Stress Reduction
Sauna not only relaxes you but it also reduces your body’s level of cortisol, leading to a drop in stress and inflammation, this also decreases the chances weight gain caused inflammation (2).
Helps In Detoxification
Like the Finns, today people use the sauna for body detoxification. When you sweat, it goes out with some toxins that are in your lymphatic system. Toxins like heavy metals leaving your body mean that you get to burn fat more efficiently as they will no longer impede your body metabolism (3).
Effective In Boosting Metabolic Rate
When the levels of toxins, inflammation, and stress are reduced in your body, your metabolic rate tends to increase. This is a good way to lose weight while boosting your metabolism (2).
Aids Blood Pressure Lowering
Sauna helps those with high blood pressure but it has been warned that they should avoid moving from a hot to cold temperature as it can cause a rise in blood pressure (1).
Sauna increases Nitric oxide bioavailability to the walls of the blood vessels, this can be a plausible explanation for its blood pressure-lowering effect (7).
People with arrhythmias should avoid getting a sauna (2).
Improves Blood Circulation And Heart Function
The high temperature in a sauna makes your blood vessels to open up and come close to the surface of your skin; this expansion causes an improvement in circulation and heart function (1).
Helps In Muscle Recovery
Being in a small, dry and hot sauna that is scented with aromatic cedar could help you stretch your tired muscles and give you a relaxing feeling (3).
It has been reported that sauna before exercise helps to improve muscle function and reduce sensory impairment. A lot of athletes get a sauna to recover their muscles from strenuous workouts (2).
Aids Stamina Improvement
For those that feel out of breath after climbing a staircase or while working out, the sauna is a good way to solve this as it helps improve your respiratory function, increase nitric oxide bioavailability, and reduces respiratory issues (2)
Asthmatics have reported a decrease in wheezing after using a sauna (6).
Sauna helps athletes to improve their stamina or endurance by about 32%. (2).
What Precautions Should You Take When Using A Sauna For Weight Loss?
- Avoid taking alcohol before or after a sauna (6).
- Take sauna for only 15-20 minutes so as not to overdo it (1).
- Avoid going to a cold temperature immediately to avoid circulatory stress (6).
- Most importantly, stay hydrated to avoid too much dehydration. Also, balance back lost electrolytes by adding a pinch of salt to your drinking water. Do so before and after a sauna (2).
- Because sauna only helps you burn calories without toning your muscles, you have to do some strength trainings to prevent muscle sagging (2).
- To stay hydrated, take about four glasses of water after staying in a sauna and leave as soon as you feel dizzy or ill (3).
Finally, Sauna is a type of thermotherapy for the whole body that uses various sources of heat and for ages it has been used for purposes such as weight loss, health, social, spiritual and hygiene (7).
Significant evidence exists to show that sauna brings about marked physiological effects (7).
A sauna is a good option when you are just starting on your weight loss journey as it will not only do that but it will provide you with other health benefits.
However, you have to combine a sauna for weight loss with healthy eating, strength training, and cardio to get the desired result (2).