Can Saunas Help Jump-Start Weight Loss?

by Bernadette Machard de Gramont
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Can Saunas Help Jump-Start Weight Loss?

It’s definitely chilly out there, which puts us in the mood for one of our favorite indoor activities of the season: the sauna. The hot temperatures of a good shvitz can not only take the edge off frosty weather but have been touted as an integral part of self-care all over the world.

From the Russian banya to the Swedish bastu, the sauna has been used for centuries by a number of cultures as a social activity among friends, as well as for its many health benefits. Saunas can help you relax and can even assist with athletic recovery — but can they help jump-start weight loss?

HOW IT WORKS

Saunas boast a multitude of benefits, including stress relief, helping to stave off illness, purportedly flushing toxins and heavy metals from the body and improving cardiovascular function. But besides the general “feel-good” effect of a sweat session, a sauna can help certain individuals rev their metabolism and burn calories.

According to the Harvard Medical blog, “Finnish researchers suggest that saunas may provide some cardiovascular conditioning because the high temperatures can drive heart rates to levels often achieved by moderate-intensity physical exercise.” In other words, the heat of the sauna makes your heart pump like you’re doing a bit of cardio, like a light jog.

SWEAT FOR A HEALTHIER YOU

So does this mean you can hang up those spin shoes and just hit the sauna to lose weight? Not exactly. While the metabolism does raise due to the body working hard to cool itself — by sweating — most of the weight lost after a sauna session is simply “water weight,” which is gained back once the body is properly rehydrated.

Here’s the big caveat: If you’re someone who is just starting to get into a fitness routine and has a few pounds to lose, a 2014 study suggests that you might get the most benefit out of regular sauna use, since those with a higher body mass index experienced the biggest loss of body mass in comparison to those of normal weight.

If you’re already active and don’t need to lose weight, you can still add the sauna as an adjunct to your workout routine for a bit of extra calorie burn, and a bit of passive cardiovascular conditioning.

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

So technically, yes — sauna bathing can absolutely help someone who needs to shed some weight jumpstart the process, but the effects of the sauna on body mass will diminish as they begin to lower their BMI. And sweating alone doesn’t suggest you’re on your way to dropping pounds.

We suggest pairing regular sauna use with a healthy diet and regular exercise — both cardio and strength straining. As far as health goes, saunas seem to be a great activity for general physical and mental well-being, so anyone can take advantage of its calorie burning, heart-pumping qualities, even if weight loss isn’t the goal.

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  • JKPS

    “Saunas boast a multitude of benefits, including stress relief, helping to stave off illness, purportedly flushing toxins and heavy metals from the body”

    That is bullshit psuedoscience. Your liver flushes out toxins, and most of the time if someone is saying, “oooh this will flush out your TOXINS!” they can’t even tell you what “toxins” they’re referring to.

    If you had any kind of credible source for this, you would have used it. Instead you sourced the idea that they can help stave off illness and you sourced the cardiovascular benefits, and then you left the toxins claim in the middle, unsourced. Seems very shady.

    Also, no, nothing can “jump start” your weight loss. Shame on y’all for perpetuating this crap! There’s no “trick” to weight loss. Burn more calories than you consume. The end.

    • Ricky Cue

      maybe you should sit in a sauna for a few mins before posting a comment.

      • JKPS

        Why the fuck would you assume that I have never been in a sauna, you uneducated jackass?

        • Ricky Cue

          LOL I never said that.

  • Shelby Anne

    Would a hot tub have a similar effect?

  • Captain Jeff

    HOT YOGA