Are you tired of chasing after the latest health trends and not sure what actually works for your well-being? It can be overwhelming to keep up with which practices actually provide optimal health benefits and are worth pursuing. Over the centuries, one such practice has stood the test of time – saunas! While there have been many types of saunas over the centuries across different cultures, there are two types of saunas that are most widely used today – infrared saunas and traditional saunas.
Why Should I Use a Sauna?
From traditional Finnish saunas to hammams in Turkey, humans have used heated enclosed spaces for healing and relaxation for thousands of years. The use of saunas holds numerous benefits including:
- Improved circulation
- Reduced pain
- Reduced stress
- Improved skin tone and appearance
- Weight loss
- Enhanced athletic performance
- Improved sleep
- Reduced inflammation
- Boosted immune system
What Are Infrared Saunas?
Unlike traditional saunas which use flame-stoked heat or steam to create hot air, the main difference of each sauna is that infrared saunas use infrared light and infrared waves to create high heat. Infrared sauna sessions use heat that warms your body directly using radiant energy similar to heat produced by the sun. An infrared sauna does not heat the air directly like in a traditional sauna experience. Infrared sauna lamps and infrared energy allows you to feel the warmth directly on your skin and operate at lower temperatures. However, don't worry– you will still feel the warmth and benefits of the heat!
What Are Traditional Saunas?
Traditional Sauna usage in Finland goes back to 7000 BC, and there are tons of data and science reporting on their benefits over the centuries. Traditional saunas are dry or steam saunas with hot stones, stoves, or electrical heaters used as their heat source. Using these more traditional sauna heaters and this type of heat makes the sauna room feel warmer than more modern saunas like infrared saunas. In a traditional dry sauna, water can be applied to the hot rocks in order to create more steam or moisture inside the heated room. However, dry saunas typically still have very low humidity.
What is the Best Sauna to Use?
Your personal preferences play a big factor in deciding which sauna is best for you. Infrared saunas with radiant heat may be the best choice if you are sensitive to higher temperatures and if you prefer an energy-efficient option. Enjoy high temperatures and the experience of a traditional sauna? Choose a traditional Finnish-style sauna instead.
While using the sauna at your health club or spa is nice, for some, having a sauna in the comfort of their own home is ideal. If you are in the market to buy your own sauna, keep in mind that the maintenance and cost of each type of sauna will definitely come play when choosing the best sauna for you. Typically, infrared saunas are a little more costly than traditional saunas.
Here are some pros and cons of infrared saunas vs traditional saunas:
- Can feel more comfortable than traditional saunas
- Are more energy-efficient than traditional saunas
- Can be used for people with respiratory problems
- More time consuming. You will need at least 45 mins for an effective session
- May not be as effective at detoxifying the body as traditional saunas
- Can be more expensive than traditional saunas
- Has not been around as long as traditional saunas and does not have as much data to back up its benefits
- Are more effective at detoxifying the body than infrared saunas
- Better suited for contrast therapy
- Benefits have been proven by time and are backed by data and science.
Less of a time commitment and more impact in a shorter period of time. 1-20 mins is all the time you need for an effective session
- Can be less comfortable than infrared saunas
- Are not as energy-efficient as infrared saunas
- May not be suitable for people with respiratory problems
Still unsure as to which sauna is best for you? Try both out and feel what you are more comfortable with. If you have never tried an infrared sauna, you might be surprised that you prefer a traditional sauna, and vice versa!
Popular health and wellness YouTube channel, High Intensity Health, discusses traditional vs infrared saunas. Video courtesy of YouTube and High Intensity Health.
Tips for Using Your Sauna
New to saunas and interested to build up a regular practice? It is completely normal to feel overwhelmed by the intense heat at first and it is important to take care of yourself every time you use your sauna. Here are some tips to follow when using a traditional sauna or infrared sauna:
- Start with 5-10 minutes in your sauna and slowly work your way up to longer sessions
- Make sure to hydrate and drink fluids before, during, and after your trip to the sauna
- Wear comfortable and breathable clothing
- Listen to your body and take breaks or leave the sauna if you feel too hot, uncomfortable, or dizzy
- If you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol or if you are pregnant or have a heart condition, don't use your sauna
Using Your Sauna for Contrast Therapy
Contrast therapy is a practice that entails micro-stressing the body by moving one extreme temperature to the other. This practice holds many benefits and can strengthen both your body and mind.
Contrast therapy is practiced by spending a few minutes in a cold plunge pool and then moving to your sauna for a longer period of time, repeated 2-3 times. When moving from one temperature to the other, your blood vessels constrict and dilate and this increased blood flow can help to reduce inflammation and pain. Additionally, contrast therapy can also help to improve circulation and reduce muscle spasms.
Benefits of contrast therapy include:
- Reduction of joint and muscle pain and inflammation
- Relief of headaches and menstrual cramps
- Stress and anxiety relief
While contrast therapy is generally considered to be a safe practice, be sure to take care when dealing with such extreme temperatures. Keep yourself hydrated and be aware of how you feel when in your ice bath and sauna. It is important to begin with shorter sessions and allow your body to acclimate to the practice.
Infrared Sauna or Traditional Sauna for Contrast Therapy?
A traditional sauna is better suited to contrast therapy with Cold Water Immersion. Moving into a hot sauna from a cold plunge is more impactful. Moving into the high heat of a sauna and transitioning your body back to a cold plunge and vice versa is more beneficial than moving into an infrared sauna from extreme cold.
Your Perfect Sauna
With so many health benefits, it's no wonder that more and more people are making the sauna a part of their personal health and wellness routine. The best type of sauna for you depends on your own needs and personal preference. With so many different types of infrared saunas and traditional saunas, you can be sure to find the perfect sauna that fits your lifestyle and budget.
If you are in search of a sauna that can fit inside your home or your outdoor space, RENU Therapy has an extensive range of aesthetically pleasing indoor and outdoor saunas. From compact 1-person saunas to larger 8-person barrel saunas, we have the perfect sauna for you. To start reaping the benefits of heat therapy and traditional saunas, contact our team today!