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Can You Use Infrared Saunas for Weight Loss?

By Nicole Vulcan ; Updated July 18, 2017

The newest and supposedly greatest weight-loss products out there might look tempting, but in reality, there's no magic bullet for slimming down. The real "secrets" lie in the tried and true methods of maintaining a calorie deficit and getting regular exercise. According to a report published in "Canadian Family Physician," far-infrared saunas could help with detoxification and could also get your heart and lungs performing at a level similar to walking at a moderate pace. In one study mentioned in the report, participants even lost some weight by using the saunas. But since the results were not entirely conclusive, your best bet would be to use the sauna as just one part of a well-rounded weight-loss routine.

Healthy Weight Loss

Maintain a regular exercise routine, performing cardiovascular exercise for about 30 minutes or more a day, five days a week. Exercise burns calories, and you'll need to burn about 3,500 more than you consume to lose one pound. The research to date on saunas doesn't provide a reliable number of calories you can burn from using them, but there's plenty of published information on how many calories you can expect to burn by walking, running, cycling, swimming or doing other common forms of cardiovascular exercise. If limited mobility is an issue, you might consider a rowing machine or a hand-crank cycle to get in your daily dose of cardio. Cardio has another big benefit: It gets your body's detoxification systems -- your liver, kidneys, heart and lungs -- working harder, which could have a similar effect as a product touted to "detox."

Perform strength-training exercises two days a week, working all the major muscle groups, including the back, shoulders, arms, legs and core. Strength training will help you build muscle, which burns more calories than fat.

Download a weight-loss app or use a free calorie tracker online. These tools will help you set a daily calorie goal based on the amount you want to lose and your current weight. Each day, enter in the foods you've eaten and the amount of exercise you've done. Also keep a training notebook in which you can write down the exercises you've done, where you worked out and any notes about the workout you feel are worth noting.

Alter the foods you're eating and cut out sweets, alcohol or high-fat foods if you find that you're consuming too many calories based on your weight-loss goal. Also try eating smaller portions and consuming more fruits and vegetables when you're hungry.

Using the Sauna

Talk to your doctor about your plans to use a far-infrared sauna. People with heart abnormalities or heart disease are generally advised to stay away from saunas, but your doctor may allow it so long as you limit your time and take other safety precautions.

Drink plenty of water. As a general rule, you need to drink roughly half your body weight in ounces each day, but that doesn't count the additional fluid you may need for exercise and for the water you'll use in the sauna. Harvard Health Publications recommends you drink about two to four additional glasses of water after each sauna session. Avoid drinking alcohol before using the sauna.

Use the sauna a few times a week, but don't exceed the manufacturer's recommendations for the amount of time to spend in the sauna during a single session. Far-infrared saunas are set at a lower temperature than "regular" saunas and use a different type of light that can cause you to sweat more and more rapidly than you would in other saunas, in spite of the relatively lower temperatures. Generally, 30 minutes or less is the recommended amount of time. Try using the sauna just after your workout to help you relax and unwind.

Track your sauna use in your training journal, noting the length of time you spent in the sauna, the temperature in the unit, how much water you drank and how you felt. This can help you gauge how the sauna is affecting you and whether it's a beneficial part of your weight-loss journey. If you find that you're losing weight more rapidly than you'd expect based on your calorie consumption and your exercise habits, keep in mind that some of that additional weight could be due to water loss from the sauna.

Tips

A combination of a healthy diet and exercise is the ideal weight-loss plan, but if you're unable to perform any physical activity, you'll still be able to cut calories as a way to slim down. Just be sure to talk to your doctor about your weight-loss plan and your sauna use.

Warnings

Some people also use their sauna time to perform stretches or even strength-training exercises, but you should do this with extreme caution. If you ever feel dizzy or lightheaded while you're in the sauna, get out immediately.

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