Hot Stuff

Infrared saunas like the ones from Sunlighten are sizzling wellness multitaskers, with benefits that include cardio conditioning, weight loss, collagen-boosting and clear skin.

By Dr. Gail King

When you think of saunas, do images of idyllic Scandinavian winter scenes come to mind? Most of us know the traditional benefits associated with sauna use, including relaxation, stress reduction, sweating and toxin release. You don’t have to wait for frigid conditions to enjoy these other surprising infrared sauna health hacks. Most people aren’t fortunate enough to live in Aspen, where year-round outdoor activities abound.

In most of the United States, high temperatures and humidity preclude outdoor aerobic activities during the summer months. Perhaps injury or health conditions prevent you from regular cardio training. Try passive cardiovascular conditioning instead. A 15- to 30-minute far infrared sauna session has been clinically shown to increase heart rate and cardiac output, boost your metabolic rate and burn up to 600 calories. That is equivalent to a 60-minute jog. I have a Sunlighten at home and highly recommend the brand of infrared saunas.

Lazy days of summer don’t have to equate to weight gain. Within two weeks of daily far infrared sauna use, fasting blood sugar levels decrease by up to five points. After three months, reduction in both weight and waist circumference are common. The mechanism responsible for these changes is thought to be increased glucose uptake by muscles. Struggling with hypertension? A statistically significant decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure is seen in as few as two weeks of far infrared sauna use, due to vasodilation of blood vessels. Furthermore, improvements in impaired endothelial function strongly suggest a protective role against atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Endothelial cells line the inside of your blood vessels, and their function is correlated with carotid artery thickness and coronary artery health.

Plus, enhanced recovery and muscle healing allows for faster return to your regular activities. Feeling great on the inside can be your secret. Looking fabulous on the outside is visible to the entire world. Wave-lengths focused in the near infrared spectrum penetrate the skin, stimulating collagen and elastin production and speeding wound-healing. The result: improvements in skin clarity, elasticity and tone; wrinkles are also reduced. Impurities that clog epidermal glands, and internal toxins, are released through the skin and easily washed away, leaving a vibrant complexion. Summer poses exercise challenges, but opportunities always exist when obstacles force redirection. Why wait for stifling temperatures to drop? With so many unexpected therapeutic benefits, infrared saunas should be a regular part of your health style routine now.