With home saunas now emerging into the mainstream, it’s worth taking a step back to analyse the debate between saunas vs steam rooms, and whether or not one offers more health benefits for the user.
While the end result for the user is similar, the means of achieving this result differ dramatically, so let’s jump inside and find out.
How Do Steam Rooms Work?
Steam rooms use a steam generator in an enclosed environment to circulate hot, humid air (around 43C, or 110F) to trigger a sweat response in the user.
Temperatures inside, however, can seem higher to the user due to the humidity.
How Do Infrared Saunas Work?
Infrared saunas take the opposite approach, using infrared light (we feel this invisible light as heat) that interacts with our skin and muscle tissue, with a dry heat that causes the body to sweat.
Infrared saunas don’t require high temperatures to trigger a sweat response from the body, instead, the spectrum of infrared light affects up to 3cm (1.5-inches) through the body, and heats up your core body temperature extremely efficiently, avoiding heating the air around you.
Rather than warming your body from the outside in, like a steam room, an infrared sauna warms you from the inside out, making it by far the most efficient means of working up a sweat from an energy perspective.
This is why the temperature inside a steam room can surpass an infrared sauna, however, an infrared sauna will raise your core body temperature to the same effective degree, while remaining at a more comfortable interior cabin temperature.
Health Benefits Of A Steam Room
As we’ve just discovered, steam rooms and infrared saunas work in completely different ways.
Steam rooms offer the user 'wet heat', while infrared saunas produce 'dry heat'.
Steam rooms are recognised for their improvement in cardiovascular health, and the lowering of blood pressure and these physiological benefits stem from raising the core body temperature.
The hot, humid air is supposedly beneficial to the respiratory system, as well as the sinus cavities, as the mucous membrane is warmed up.
In comparison, steam rooms have only been shown to provide an additional benefit to sinus cavities and mucus.
Health Benefits Of A Infrared Sauna
On the other hand, infrared saunas have been shown to promote an increased metabolism & weight loss, cardiovascular health improvements, muscle & joint pain relief, boosted immune system, much more advanced detoxification improvement, reduce the appearance of scars and improve skin elasticity, reduces stress, provide mental wellbeing relief, improve sleep patterns, and has shown effective results in the aiding and supporting of autoimmune diseases such as fibromyalgia and Lyme.
In comparison, infrared saunas provide the same health benefits as steam rooms except for supporting the sinus cavaties, and a plethora of additional health benefits mentioned above.
Our Clearlight Infrared® Saunas are extremely efficient in heating the body without the need for high ambient temperatures and offer proven health benefits when it comes to easing muscle and joint pain, increasing the immune system, encouraging detoxification, improving cardiovascular health, helping you sleep, reducing stress while improving relaxation, as well as the metabolic response which can help with weight loss and skin issues.
If you're interested in a list of health benefits infrared saunas have to offer click here.
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Do You Lose More Weight In A Sauna Or Steam Room?
It has been proven that you lose more fat in a Clearlight Infrared® Sauna than you do in a steam room.
The way your body soaks up the infrared light and begins warming from the inside out can have a dramatic impact on the metabolism and offers considerable weight loss benefits for users.
While the ambient heat in a steam room causes the body to lose water weight, infrared light targets underneath the skin, which has proven more effective when it comes to losing weight than in a steam room.
A two-phase weight loss study from Binghamton University, New York shows that an increase in core temperature causes the body to decrease its body fat.
When we take a closer look at how steam rooms and infrared saunas cause the body to heat up, the efficiency of infrared technology means steam rooms are limited when it comes to using targeted at weight loss. Infrared saunas target underneath the skin, which includes the toxins stored in your fat cells.
By targeting these cells, infrared light helps you sweat away these fats and toxins, while also increasing your cardiovascular, lymphatic and immune system health.
Steam rooms are beneficial when it comes to weight loss, although they’re most effective when it comes to an individual losing water weight, rather than the targeted approach of infrared saunas.
Due to the infrared heat actively working directly on fat tissues underneath the skin, they’re believed to be better when it comes to losing weight than time in a steam room, which is predominantly from losing water weight.
Are Saunas Better Than Steam Rooms Post-Workout?
Studies have shown that applying heat to muscles and joints after a workout helps massively when it comes to reducing inflammation and pain.
Both steam rooms and infrared saunas are believed to decrease the amount of force needed to move a specific joint by up to 25%.
Is A Steam Room Hotter Than A Sauna?
One common myth prevails.
That is, higher temperatures in a sauna equate to greater health benefits.
So far, there’s been no conclusive link between higher ambient temperatures and greater health benefits.
The human body operates at a temperature of 37C (97F), and temperatures even slightly above this will trigger a sweat response from the user.
It has been shown that the physiological benefits of heat therapy arise once the core body temperature reaches 38.5C. You can learn more about this here.
Long exposures to a traditional sauna or steam room can cause dehydration in the user, rather than trigger health benefits. We’ve covered this exact topic, which you can read here.
Steam rooms and infrared saunas are arguably the most enjoyable means of taking care of yourself, but which is better?
Of course, it’s a highly subjective topic, dependent on whether the user enjoys dry, or wet heat.
In terms of health benefits, they’re evenly stacked, although science suggests that the nature of skin penetration from infrared saunas can stimulate a more powerful response from the body, and more effectively target toxins, as well as assist in weight loss more than steam rooms.
If you're looking at infrared saunas, this video explains the differences in the market, and what you should look for when tossing up which is the right sauna for you.
If you're interested in an infrared sauna cabin for home, click here to view our range of full-spectrum saunas, far-infrared saunas, and outdoor saunas.
Clearlight would like to remind users that this should not be taken as direct medical advice, and you should always consult a licensed health practitioner before making any significant changes to your lifestyle or existing pain treatment regimen.