To go along with our home gym, we used some of our end-of-the-year-bonus and bought ourselves a sauna. Costco had this three-person one on sale in December for less than $1,300 delivered (normally over $2,000), and we had first hand experience with it at a friend’s home so pulled the trigger.
It is awesome. We decided to forgo a bigger television and invest further in our health and provide a warm refuge in our cold Midwest winters. It came delivered off a semi-truck on a 500 lb pallet. After breaking down the pallet, we moved the individual wall sections downstairs where we assembled it. The only other thing we did was install a new 20 amp breaker in our electrical box and dedicate some new wiring to this unit. Easy peasy.
We cranked that thing up to 135 degrees and hopped in, and let the sweat and toxins drip out like we were turkeys on the spit. If you are unaware, saunas have lots of health benefits (and some potential concerns depending what you get) and come in several types. Anyone really interested in the science can dig much further, I’m only going to hit the high points.
Types of Saunas
You’re probably most familiar with the “traditional” sauna where you control the humidity in a very hot enclosed room, perhaps by pouring water on super-heated rocks. These types of saunas can get upwards of 200 degrees. The second kind, and the one we went, is called far-infrared sauna. “Far” describes where the infrared waves fall on the light spectrum. While the traditional sauna uses heat to warm the air, which then heats you, the far-infrared sauna uses infrared heaters to emit infrared light experienced as radiant heat that actually heats your body directly (penetrating into your skin) without necessarily warming the air around you.
[Note: We are healthy adults who have done this before, but if there is any question, please check with your doctor.]
I have no idea if the health claims below are real, the science behind this area is generally limited and sketchy, but I can say how we feel. We feel relaxed, sweaty, and buzzing with quiet energy. We feel warm, but compared to traditional sauna, the temperatures are much lower, so isn’t as harsh and you’re able to enjoy the benefits further. With the built in speakers, I hook up meditation podcasts or other happy life podcasts to build in some mental health stuff into the experience. In the brief time we’ve had it, we always feel relaxed and happy coming out, like endorphins buzzing through us. Even the kids have used it after playing outside in the snow, getting warmed up with mom or dad – keeping in mind they don’t have the patience or desire to spend more than 5 or 10 minutes in there (this is something we supervise closely and will continue to do so). Plus, when I’ve enjoyed it alone with my wife, we’re both barely clothed so connect in a vulnerable way as the happy feelings envelope us.
The actual ‘alleged’ health benefits include:
Detoxification – sweating results in detoxification on the cellular level. Acting along with the liver and kidneys, it removes toxins from subcutaneous layer of our skin, so having a towel to remove your sweat while spending time here is a good idea.
Weight Loss – Some studies talk about how 30 minutes in a sauna can burn 200-600 calories as the body works hard to cool itself. In doing so, it increases heart rate, cardiac output, metabolic rate, and causes the body to burn more calories.
Skin Purification/Anti-Aging – the near infrared wavelength is supposed to stimulate collagen production to reduce wrinkles and improve overall skin tone, supposedly healing the epidermis and dermis layers of the skin.
Heat Shock Protein – I first heard Rhonda Patrick talk about heat shock proteins on Joe Rogan’s podcast, but this article on Tim Ferris’s website guest written by Dr. Patrick is chock full of science. It talks about enhancement of endurance (due to stuff like increased plasma volume), increased muscular hypertrophy, and how heat shock proteins provide a protective stress response that dumps a bunch of growth hormone into our bodies. I’m not sure if this type of sauna gets hot enough (some of the studies are in conditions closer to 200 degrees) but it is still a very interesting study.
Warm Supple Muscles, Improved Recovery – warm and relaxed muscles are happy muscles, happy muscles recover faster.
The one thing I found that is of note on the bad side of the ledger is electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation. These are present in everything from hair dryers to personal computers, measured in milligauss (mG – it is the cgs unit of a magnetic field, also known as magnetic flux density). It is counter intuitive to use this for detoxification yet hurt your health by spending time in a high-EMF environment. When you’re looking to use something as often as a sauna, a low-EMF environment is important and should be a factor in your decision. Ours was tested at 2-5 mG at 4 inches, not ultra low, but pretty low overall.
While Costco doesn’t sell the 3-person version we bought anymore, Amazon is selling a highly rated similarly priced, similar feature 2-person sauna. Amazon is selling a highly rated similarly priced, similar feature 2-person sauna for about $1,000. The big difference is you’re mostly able to recline in a 3-person (with back rest, or with legs bent) but will be much more difficult if not impossible in a 2 person version.