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Far Out
The growing popularity of infrared saunas, plus their health and anti-aging benefits


July 2016

It ainít the humidity ó itís the heat. Infrared saunas are becoming one of the hottest (pun intended) in-home and spa therapies in the country. The new technology uses far-infrared rays (FIR) to heat the body instead of steam or dry heat. A conventional sauna heats the skin superficially with temperatures averaging 180 degrees; far-infrared saunas heat the body from the inside out, with rays penetrating to a depth of 1.5 inches without warming the air. Proponents of the technology claim that heating the bodyís core has numerous health and anti-aging benefits.

According to the American Heart Association, the body pumps an average of 1.39 gallons of blood per minute under normal conditions. A study published in Harvard Medical Schoolís Harvard Health Publications found that this pulse rate jumps by 30 percent or more in a sauna, without movement, and the heart nearly doubles the amount of blood it pumps per minute. The increased oxygenation helps the body repair cells and tissue, while the higher heart rate also has the effect of a mild workout and the resulting weight loss. "Some infrared sauna proponents claim that a 30-minute sauna session is equivalent to jogging or rowing for 30 minutes," says Lee Ann Baum of Greensquare Integrative Health Care Center in Glendale, where FIR sessions have been offered for the past year. She says that FIR has also proven to be beneficial for people suffering from psoriasis and other skin conditions, heart disease, arthritis, asthma and fibromyalgia.

Director-Kohler Waters Spas & Development Garrett Mersberger says infrared has many of the same advantages of a traditional sauna. "Detoxification, relaxation, improved blood circulation, to name a few," he says. "Infrared also brings benefits of healing from certain injuries thanks to its deeper penetration of the heat within the body."

"But there are cons," Mersberger cautions. "Some people prefer the heat, steam and water of a traditional sauna, and because there is no steam generated, there is no relief or benefit to oneís respiratory problems."

If being heated from the inside out sounds a little too much like being put in a microwave, you need not worry. According to the Mayo Clinic, no adverse health effects have been reported. "It provides all the healthy benefits of natural sunlight without any of the dangerous effects of solar radiation. We all need a bit of sun exposure for vitamin D production and other reasons," says Baum. "I use (the infrared sauna) three times a week. My skin feels wonderful, my energy level is higher, my joints feel much better, and Iíve toned and lost some weight."



This story ran in the July 2016 issue of: