On an intuitive level, most folks get that saunas are cleansing experiences — a way to break a healthy, healing sweat without wearing yourself out. And besides, they just feel good. (As long as you don’t overdo it!) Well, anything a regular sauna can do, a far-infrared sauna can do even better. Both types of sauna heat your body, but they do it in different ways.
Regular saunas heat the air, which then indirectly heats your body. Far-infrared saunas cut out the middle man by emitting infrared rays that absorb directly into your body just like sunlight does, warming your tissues more than an inch deep while leaving the air around you relatively cool. The result is a healthier sweat, with fewer dangers and an ever-growing body of scientific proof about its benefits.
A full-body tuneup
One of the biggest, best-proven benefits of an infrared sauna is the way it stimulates your circulation, improving blood flow everywhere from your fingertips to your heart. That’s especially good news for anyone who struggles with chronic heart or circulatory problems and yes, tests done on mice show it can help those with diabetes, too.
Saunas of all types are also great for detoxification, helping your skin do its job as an elimination organ — but since far-infrared saunas leave the air cooler than a regular sauna, you stay more comfortable while your skins at work. That truly effortless detox also revs your metabolism and boosts your immune system.
The research is still in the early stages, but far-infrared saunas are also showing some potential benefit for fighting a few specific types of cancer, and they can help reduce pain and stiffness for those with chronic inflammation.
Where to find far-infrared (FIR) saunas
A local gym is the best place to try for the best experience. Home models are also available.
If you have any chronic medical conditions, let your doctor know what you’re up to before you step into the sauna. Pregnant women shouldn’t sauna but if you feel you absolutely must, please talk to your doctor about your plans first.
Also, if you see a sauna labeled only as infrared instead of far-infrared or FIR, it’s probably near-infrared. Most of the scientific research out there has been done on FIR saunas, but some people think near-infrared saunas offer similar benefits. They’re also less expensive — but you should know that they heat the air a lot like a conventional sauna, and you’ll have to turn around periodically to give the infrared bulbs a chance to reach your entire body.