Who here is trying to lose weight desperately? You might not see, but I’m raising my hand too. As soon as we hear something helps in ‘weight loss’ we immediately run to purchase it, don’t we?
However, the claims are often simply rumours, without having any scientific evidence to back them up. Sauna blankets are also often associated with weight loss. So, if you’re wondering if sauna blankets help you lose weight, you’re at the right place.
Let’s discuss how infrared saunas work and whether or not they have been scientifically proven to be an efficient help in a weight loss journey. We’ll also be discussing a few health benefits of sauna blankets.
Types of saunas
Before we dive deeper into the topic and find out whether or not sauna blankets help your weight loss journey, let’s look at the different types of saunas.
While every type of saunas promotes sweating, infrared saunas are the ones that many believe would complement weight loss.
- Wood burning saunas. Saunas have been around for way too long, yes, even before electricity existed. So, the traditional way of heating a sauna room was to fire the wood, which heats up the rock, making the entire room hot. In this type of sauna, you can put water over the rocks without worrying about short-circuiting anything.
- Sweat lodge saunas. Unlike wood-burning saunas, rocks are heated outside the sauna room and brought in while they are still super hot in sweat lodge saunas. Then water is poured over the rocks to steam up the room.
- Electrical saunas. With the advancement in technology, a simpler way of sauna where you could enjoy the benefits by a switch of a button was invented. The best part about this type of sauna is that you can adjust the temperature as per your preference. Electrical saunas mostly accompany dry heat, but if your sauna studio allows, you can pour a little water into the filament to produce steam.
- Infrared saunas. Infrared saunas work a bit differently than the rest of the saunas. You’ll sweat but not due to the extremely hot surrounding heat. Instead, you feel hot from within while the room doesn’t become as hot as it would be in a traditional sauna.
How does an infrared sauna work?
As mentioned above, infrared saunas have a different working mechanism. That is why many associate infrared saunas with weight loss. Infrared saunas work to increase the body’s core temperature by using light waves, just as in the case of sunlight.
Theoretically, infrared saunas are believed to penetrate the skin into the fat cells, which heats your body, and your body has to compensate for the increasing temperature by putting on extra work to cool the body off.
Most infrared heat therapy comprises visible and non-visible spectrums of sunlight that penetrate the body deep into the tissue layer, thus, warming the body from within.
So, many believe that a sauna is a form of exercise and will help you to lose weight. In fact, in a study conducted in 2019 where the cardiovascular effects among volunteers while they’re in a sauna and an exercise bike were compared, the increase in heart rate was found to be similar to moderate workout sessions.
However, the focus of this study was not on the weight loss aspect. It was more directed to study the effect of the sauna on the cardiovascular system. The scientists concluded sauna to be a form of passive cardio workout.
In fact, the researcher of the study, a lead sports scientist, Sasha Ketelhut, has mentioned that while saunas promote healthy sweating, it does not have a significant role in weight loss as there is no muscle movement.
Does a sauna blanket help you lose weight?
In short, yes, sauna blankets help you lose weight. If you weigh yourself before and after your session, you’ll probably see the difference.
However, to break your bubble, the weight loss is only temporary and mostly water weight. So, once you rehydrate yourself, you’ll again go back to your regular weight.
Nevertheless, a Manhattan-based holistic doctor, Dr Frank Lipman, mentions that there are pieces of evidence that support that infrared sauna, given their ability to penetrate deep into the tissue layer, helps increase your metabolic rate. He further adds that a body can burn around 200 to 600 calories every 30 minutes of an infrared sauna session.
In a study performed at Binghamton University, New York, the volunteers were exposed to infrared sauna three times a week for forty-five minutes.
In the span of four months, the researchers noticed a 4 % decrease in the body fat percentage among those who received the sauna in comparison to the control group. However, others find this research to not be strong enough to support infrared sauna in its weight loss properties.
In this study, the diet, physical activity, and other factors that could have played a role in the results were not monitored.
Ian Nelligan, a primary care physician and clinical assistant professor at Stanford University, asserts that a sauna might be a form of physical activity for patients with arthritis or other chronic conditions, a way for them to keep their heart health fit.
However, he further mentions that no concrete studies have been performed regarding the sauna’s role in weight loss, and thus, it cannot be clinically recommended as a method to lose weight.
So, the claim that many infrared sauna manufacturers make that the light rays penetrate and ‘melts’ the fat cells are not entirely true.
An infrared sauna might act as a complement to your physical fitness routine and help you improve your cardiovascular system and metabolism. However, never rely on an infrared sauna alone to ‘melt’ your fat away.
Are there any other health benefits?
Now, we know that infrared saunas helping you sweat your fat away is not a scientifically proven truth. So, what do we do with the sauna blankets that you bought for the sole purpose of weight loss? Do we toss them into the trash or into the unwanted corner of the cupboard?
We’d recommend you to not let yourself be discouraged from a sauna blanket use just because its role in weight loss hasn’t been proven yet. There are multiple other health benefits an infrared sauna session offers. Let’s discuss them in detail in this section, shall we?
- Helps with fatigue, mood, and relaxation. Almost everyone who loves sauna is aware of this benefit, and in fact, we don’t even need a research paper to corroborate this statement as we’ve all most likely have experienced this on our own. However, if you’re yet to buy a sauna blanket, here’s a research study where the researchers found out that infrared sauna was beneficial for people with chronic fatigue syndrome. Also, the patients’ performance status, mood, symptoms of anxiety and depression were found to improve significantly after therapy.
- Helps with muscle soreness and recovery. In one study, where the volunteers were men involved in rigorous strength and endurance training sessions, deep penetration of infrared heat was found to offer the volunteers a relaxing experience and help recover their neuromuscular system from the endurance training.
- Improve cardiovascular health. A n infrared sauna session can be categorized as a passive cardio workout as the cardiovascular activity of the volunteers exposed to the infrared sauna was found to be equivalent to that of when doing a moderate workout in a study.
- Reduces blood pressure. The warmth that accompanies infrared sauna is believed to dilate the blood vessels, which in turn reduces your blood pressure. However, in a study, the blood pressure was found to increase during the sauna session despite the popular belief that the sauna lowers the blood pressure. Nevertheless, after the session, the blood pressure was found to reduce to below the baseline levels of the individuals. The reduction in lower blood pressure can also be due to the calming and relaxing effect the sauna has on its users. It might be helpful in reducing the blood pressure of those who suffer from stress-induced blood pressure.
- Improves skin. Anything physical exercise that involves sweating is considered to be beneficial for your skin health. The same is the case for sauna. While sweating, your skin gets rid of dirt and toxins from the pores, and once you shower afterward, you’ll be left with clean and healthy skin.
While sauna blankets have many other health benefits, unfortunately, it doesn’t ‘melt’ your fat away.
Through this post, we hope to have cleared all your misconceptions regarding sauna blankets and weight loss. If it would be that efficient at melting your fat, then chances are it would also melt your skin and other body parts as well.
If you have any more queries regarding the topic, feel free to ask us. And, also let us know whether or not you use a sauna blanket and if yes, have you noticed any changes in your body weight?
Alicia Saville did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in mental health and well-being.