The Benefits of Using an Infrared Sauna for Muscle Recovery
March 21st, 2023 | Aria Ma
DISCLAIMER: This article seeks to provide information for educational use only. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed physician.
Sauna this, sauna that - it’s all the hype in the fitness world today! There have been claims on the benefits made about using a sauna all around social media, but what is the science telling us?
Let’s start first with what is an infrared sauna? According to Mayo Clinic, an infrared sauna “is a type of sauna that uses light to make heat.” The infrared waves heats your body directly whereas a regular sauna uses heat to warm the air for the same effect. Infrared saunas operate at a lower temperature which can lead to longer sweat times without the extreme heat. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that some of the benefits from using a sauna include:
Relief from sore muscles
Clear and tighter skin
And improved circulation
Although some of these benefits seem common across the board, there has been some skepticism in the risks that can come from using a sauna. One study found that there has not been any experimental results on the risks associated with long-term sauna usage. Other than common precautions to make note of such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, pregnancy issues, drug usage, and more, there have not been many reports of negative effects of using a sauna.
On the other hand, there have been some studies that show many positive effects for using a sauna post-workout. This study investigated the effects of the infrared sauna on recovery from endurance and strength training workouts. The experiment followed ten healthy physically active male volunteers on either a 60 minute hypertrophic strength training session or a 34-40 minute maximal endurance training session. The sessions would be followed either with 1) an infrared sauna session of 35-50°C in 25-35% humidity for 30 minutes or 2) a regular sauna session of 35-50°C in 60-70% humidity for 30 minutes. The results concluded that infrared sauna bathing with mild temperatures between 35-50°C and light humidity (25-35°) were favorable for the neuromuscular system to recover from workout performance.
Another study investigated the effects of a single infrared sauna session post-workout on neuromuscular performance, autonomic nervous system function, subjective sleep quality, and muscle soreness. It followed 16 male basketball players completing two trials of resistance exercise workouts followed by either 20 minutes of passive recovery (control) or a single infrared sauna session at 43 +/- 5 °C. This study concluded that using a sauna post-exercise decreases muscle soreness which may improve an individual’s readiness, mood, and physical performance.
Overall, scientists agree that infrared sauna usage post-workout is optimal for muscle recovery and mood improvement. Although multiple studies conclude that using a sauna may improve individuals with specific diseases, it is important to note that each individual and their experience will differ. Your experience with using a sauna may be very different from another’s! However, there are a couple of overarching guidelines to follow to ensure your infrared sauna session is positive!
According to Healthline, a medical journalist company dedicated to health advice sourced by experts and medical professionals, here are the steps you can take to prepare for your infrared session:
Take a shower after your workout. Maintaining proper hygiene is important as others may be sharing the same space as you. In addition, a warm/hot shower can open the pores of your skin, ensuring the infrared session to be effective and efficient.
Have a group consensus on the temperature. Some saunas are individual pods while others you may share with others. Some may like it warmer while others prefer it hotter. The average temperature for an infrared sauna ranges from 100°F to 150°F.
Be mindful of clothing. Some may prefer to wear a bathing suit while others are comfortable with nudity.
Do not use the sauna if you have been drinking alcohol or have a fever.
You may be lightheaded when you stand up. Make sure you get up slowly and sit down when you leave the sauna. Replenish your body with water after your sweat session!
ROAM Fitness’ new Philadelphia location will be featuring an infrared sauna. You can book your session through the website or in person at the airport! We look forward to helping you rejuvenate, relax, and recover after your workout session.