What are far infrared saunas? I never knew these existed until one of my readers of this web site sent me an email suggesting I check one out.
In researching this, I tried to stay away from websites selling home saunas.
Infrared saunas are growing in popularity. They use far infrared rays emitted by infrared heaters to create warmth. Infrared radiation rays are similar to those that are produced by the sun. Infrared is said to be beneficial to overall health.
Hippocrates, the father of medicine, had this to say: "Give me the power to create a fever, and I shall cure any disease.' By artificially inducing a fever through far-infrared sauna therapy your immune system kicks into high gear.
There are numerous health benefits of regular sauna use that include:
Pain relief, weight control, cellulite, stretch marks, rheumatoid arthritis, muscle spasms, joint stiffness, stress reduction, acne and other skin disorders, overworked muscles, migraine headaches, low back pain, soft tissue injury, menopause, insomnia, allergies, cancer pain, nervous tension, high blood pressure, heart disease, heavy metal poisoning, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, increase in the extensibility of collagen tissues, increases blood flow, assists in resolution of inflammatory infiltrates, and detoxifies the entire body.
All of these claims can be found just about everywhere on the internet. If you want more information, the only article I've found that actually provides references to studies can be found here, and as far as I can tell, the author who wrote this article only sells herbs and not saunas.
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Intense weight lifting cause muscles to become sore. This is due to the buildup of large amounts of lactic acid and carbon dioxide in the muscles. The faster this waste is cleared, the faster the stiffness in the muscles disappears.
In a sauna, excess lactic acid which builds up during exercise is removed, and tired and sore muscles relax, and joint stiffness is relieved. Athletes often use saunas after strenuous exercise.
20 - 30 minutes of far infrared sauna therapy can offer you benefits similar to those of a 2-3 mile run.
In Guyton's Textbook of Medical Physiology we find that producing one gram of sweat requires 0.568 calories. The Journal of American Medical Association[JAMA] states; "A moderately conditioned person can easily sweat off 500 grams in a sauna, consuming nearly 300 calories, which is equivalent to running 2-3 miles. A heat conditioned person can easily sweat off 600-800 calories with no adverse effects".
I literally sweat buckets using the sauna. While the weight of the water loss can be regained by drinking water, the calories consumed will not be.
From the sauna heat and your sweating you will begin to burn about 300 to 600 calories in just one 20-minute session. The sauna will also increase your heart rate by about 50 to 75 %. This will make the body feel as if you have gone through a high-energy cardiac workout. Since the dry heat from the sauna and the sweat that you are producing is responsible for this cardiac workout you will have no undue stress placed on your body.
The work you heart does in the sauna (increasing in heart pulse rate) can actually improve your overall cardiovascular fitness. Basically, over time, your heart becomes conditioned to the hot sauna conditions, effectively improving its capacity to handle stress.
Medical researchers confirm that the use of a sauna provides cardiovascular conditioning as the body works to cool itself and involves substantial increases in heart rate, cardiac output and metabolic rate, referred to as passive cardiac conditioning.
I found this hard to believe until one morning I did an intense 20 minute cardio session while wearing a heart monitor. I got my heart rate up to 156 bpm, then got off the treadmill and sat in the sauna for another 20 minutes. I wore my heart rate monitor in the sauna, and by just sitting there sweating my heart rate reached 126!
I really couldn't find many reviews on different brands of saunas, so instead I focused on finding out about the three types of heating elements, which are tubular (either ceramic or metal) or flat thin carbon heaters (newest technology).
Tubular heaters (both ceramic and metal) have usually short warm-up time, small surface area and high temperature; they emit rays closer to mid-infrared.
Flat ceramic heaters have slower warm-up, larger surface area, lower temperature and emit rays closer to far-infrared.
Flat thin carbon heaters have fast warm-up, largest surface area, and lower temperature and emit rays closer to far-infrared. Source
Using this info, I settled on a sauna with the newer carbon heaters, which meant I was going to have to pay a little more.
Helo uses carbonflex infrared heating technology. One of the most common complaints about infrared saunas is the uncomfortable sensation of cold spots in the sauna where no IR heat waves reach the body, and hot spots when seated directly in front of old style ceramic or metallic IR heaters.
Due to the huge surface area of the carbonflex heating panels, the heat is evenly dispersed and the surface temperature of the heater is comfortable. More importantly, the large surface are creates the perfect IR wavelength.
I finally found a local retailer that had a few Helo models with carbon heaters that I could try out. I sat in one for only five minutes, and my wife noticed beads of sweat on my upper lip, and I actually could breath. High humidity always caused breathing problems for me, but the hot, dry air was different.
Because of the lack of space in my home gym, I decided a one person sauna was the only option so I bought a Helo 510 c, one person model. This cost just over $1000.
The sauna came in three good sized boxes. The box claimed no tools where needed, but you still had to screw in twelve wood screws.
All you had to do to assemble was place the floor panel where you wanted the sauna and then set the side panels in place. This took some time because we couldn't get every side aligned with each other. Maybe because this was sitting on a carpeted surface and wasn’t exactly level. Assembly took a good hour because of this.
After the panels were in place and the top was attached, all you had to do was connect the electrical connections and plug it in. This model comes with an AM/FM/CD stereo system and a mini spot-light for reading. I also use earbuds with two extensions running to a television set.
Using the sauna, my muscles feel better, I recover quicker from workouts, my joints don't ache as much, and areas where I had injuries improved tremendously. I've even found it beneficial to stretch while sitting there.
Take a cold shower afterwards and you'll feel like a million bucks.
Bottom line: If you have the space and can afford one, a sauna is a worthwhile addition to your home gym set-up.
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