Yep, surfing and saunas. I’ve heard a lot about the benefits of saunas but since I didn’t grow up around them nor have I ever owned a home with one, I was not very well educated on them. I just know that getting out of the water in the winter time chills me to the bone and It got me thinking about the best ways to warm up. Someone suggested a sauna, and I decided to find out more about them.
What Is a Sauna?
A sauna is typically a space heated to between 140° to 190° F. Infrared saunas usually use dry heat, with a relative humidity that is often between 10 and 20 percent. In a traditional sauna, the moisture is much higher. Most of us are familiar with the traditional saunas where you pour water over hot stones and create steam. saunas can raise the skin temperature up to 104°. As the skin temperature rises, heavy sweating also occurs. The heart rate rises as the body attempts to keep cool. It is not uncommon to lose about a pint of sweat while spending a short time in a sauna.
Types of Saunas
There are three main types of saunas:
- Steam Saunas: These are the ones we are probably most familiar with. Water is poured over hot stones to create steam. The can get really hot with high humidity.
- Dry Saunas: A little less popular are dry saunas. They work like Steam Saunas and have not stones in the space, but you don’t pour water on them, so you get really hot without the humidity.
- Infrared Saunas: What? I had no idea these even existed when starting my research. To explain them, think of a sunny day and the heat you feel from the Sun. Invisible infrared wavelengths are what make us feel warm. Now let’s take those same wavelengths and create them in a small space with infrared devices. These device panels are on the walls and floor and creates dry heat.
I had experienced steam and dry saunas before at gyms but never an infrared. In fact, I thought it sounds a little too much like being microwaved and had never given it a try. But I had an opportunity and decided to try it, and I’m glad I did.
Health Benefits of Saunas
Before I went much further, I wanted to know what the benefits were beyond just getting warm quickly. I know there is a lot of buzz about saunas these days, but was it just a “total gym” hype or “5-minute abs” type stuff, or was there more. Wow, was there more. Here is are a few of the health benefits that come with heating the body which increases the heart rate and widens blood vessels which increases circulation:
- Easing Pain: increased circulation can reduce soreness, increase movement and even reduce some arthritis pain.
- Lowering Stress Levels: chilling out? Maybe heating out is better. Increased circulation promotes relaxation and feelings of happiness.
- Reduced Heart Attack Risk: yep. Studies have proven people who use a sauna have a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
- Improved Brain Function: sweating helps the neurotransmitters in the body which lead to better brain functioning.
- Immune System Boost: by raising your core body temperature it induces an artificial fever, this triggers the body’s natural mechanism to strengthen the immune response.
- Detoxification: increasing blood circulation and stimulating the sweat glands release built-up toxins in the blood. Remember this the next time you wake up with a hangover!
- Improves Skin: sweating carries off deeply embedded impurities and dead skin, making your skin look better.
I could keep going, but the above list was enough to get me thinking. I love to surf and what started as a study in warming up in the winter has turned into thoughts of how to assure that I can surf into old age. Diet, exercise, strength, flexibility are all things that I pay attention to but after learning about the benefits of saunas, how could I need add them also.
What Sauna to Get?
Ok, I’m sold on the benefits of saunas and yes, I could just go to the gym, but I wanted to be able to take one every day and decided to invest on one. So how to decide?
Built in or Kit: I would have preferred to get one built-in to my home, like by converting a closet to a sauna or having a space that I could put it, but I didn’t, so that was out. Also, the cost to construct one was about 10-25k depending upon how fancy you wanted to get.
Infrared, Wet or Dry: The wet/dry saunas use about the same equipment, it just depends on whether you like the humidity. IN the research, I really did not see any great benefit from the humidity, more about the heat and how the body reacts to it. Also, Infrared saunas heat up faster and cost lower to operate. Ok, so I decided on an Infrared Sauna.
Location: are you going to place it outside or inside. They make both, and 2-person, 3 person, 4 or more. You really need to go to a show room and sit down in one before buying. I don’t know what the average size of a person is when they say “4 person” sauna, but it’s not anyone I know. Overall, they are small.
110V or 220V: besides deciding where you’ll put it you’ve got to decide where you’re going to plug it in. Not every place has 220V and if you choose 110V you’ll need a dedicated circuit for it to plug into.
So, what did I choose? I went with a 110V Infrared 4-person sauna, inside model and placed it in the garage. I didn’t need to get new wiring, but it heats a little slower than 220V but works. They are actually pretty economical, as we got ours from a wholesaler for under $2k. You can also find them on Amazon.
We’ve had the 4-person Infrared sauna for about a month now and we take a sauna, just about every day. Oh, before I get to that, let’s talk about the set up. We picked up our sauna in three huge boxes. The salesman said I could put it together myself in about an hour. How hard could it be? Recommendation here, get a buddy to help you or pay to have it put together. The floor, walls and ceiling are all big panels that need to be aligned and clamped together and the glass doors and front are really heavy. Ours also came with no directions…maybe that was why we got the low price. Anyway, I did it by myself and it did take about 1.5 hours, but I wouldn’t want to do it again. So, when we sell the house, the sauna is included.
So back to the results. It’s tight for 2 people and not very comfortable. The walls and floors have infrared panels on them so you need to use a little wooden backrest to lay against so you’re not on the panels. I’m 6’4” and these back rests were probably made for a 5’ person (remember the 4-person classification) so not great. The seat bench is pretty narrow, so forget about laying down or lounging in a 4-person sauna, even if you are alone. That being said, the infrared heats up to 140 degrees in about 20 minutes and at that temperature you’ll be sweating in no time. 30 minutes should do it. Overall, I wish it was bigger and more comfortable, but it does the job and I feel great after using it.
BTW, on the way back from my dawn patrol session, I call my wife, ask here to turn it on and when I get home, heaven! Placing the Malo’o DryRack on the outside of the sauna is a great place to store your towels while inside!