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Can infrared saunas make you healthier?

It’s been said that they can relieve pain, boost circulation and even aid weight loss, but do infrared saunas live up to the claims? As the debate heats up, AMBER KALLOR investigates

Beauty

With scores of new spas offering infrared (IR) saunas, sweating it out has never been hotter. At New York-based sauna Higher Dose, you’ll find glistening models and actresses including Bella Hadid and Michelle Williams sipping alkaline water as they take the heat. The trend is even going DIY: Lady Gaga has her own home pod to help combat her hip pain, and you can buy IR sauna wraps (think full-body sleeping bags) to suit those with less space. But celebrity fans aside, what do they do for your health?

Used in neonatal units to keep babies warm, IR heat raises core body temperature without heating the surrounding air via invisible electromagnetic energy. Whereas traditional steam saunas typically reach an uncomfortable 200°F, IR saunas reach a more tolerable 125-140°F. Research by The University of British Columbia has found evidence to support the use of IR saunas for chronic pain, heart health and high blood pressure. Experts recommend up to four 15-60 minute sessions a week to see benefits such as increased blood flow, raised serotonin levels and faster metabolism rates.

Experts recommend infrared saunas to see benefits such as increased blood flow and higher serotonin levels

However, a published review by Dr Richard Beever at the University of British Columbia found no evidence to support the use of IR saunas for weight loss. “Small trials point to possible benefits, but more definitive research is needed,” reveals Dr Brent Bauer, the director of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. And, though many users report brighter, plumper skin, mounting data suggests that “IR light may worsen pigmentation and lead to premature aging,” warns New York-based dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner.

Our advice? Only time and more studies will tell, but if you find something that makes you feel good, that’s the best kind of anti-aging treatment there is. Proceed with caution and, of course, lots of water to rehydrate – you can even add the latest health-boosting supplements to enhance that feel-good factor from within.

THE FEEL-GOOD FACTOR

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