I grew up using traditional saunas in the classic setting of a sports club/gym with the stereotypical old guys coming in and out. I would say that it has been over 10 years since I have used a traditional sauna–once I found out about far infrared saunas there was no going back. However, being the owner of an infrared sauna company, I wanted to do some reconnaissance for my customers. The more educated we all are the better, right? So I had some extra time at the gym yesterday and I decided to use their traditional sauna to see what all the fuss is about (if you don’t know already, there is quite a big debate between traditional versus infrared saunas).
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When I entered in the sauna I was immediately alarmed when I looked up at the temperature gauge and it read 185°F! I almost couldn’t believe it. Add that to the fact that I wanted to stay in for 30 minutes (I use my sauna for 30 minutes, so I should be fair), I had my work cut out for me.
A little background: I have been using my infrared sauna daily for the last 2 and a half years.
I am in love with my sauna and infrared therapy in general. So as I am sitting in the traditional sauna I am trying to relax, but I’m also trying to be aware of the differences. The very first thing that I noticed was that it’s hard to breathe! The air is so hot that it actually singes your nostrils with each inhalation (I did, however, find that my sinuses were pretty clear at the end of my session). As the minutes went by I noticed that my skin was getting pretty warm, but the sweat wasn’t coming as quickly as I thought it would.
I did build up a layer of sweat on my skin, but I didn’t feel that internal warmth that comes from taking an infrared sauna. This left me feeling pretty empty and unsatisfied at the end of my session (also, I did not sweat as deeply).
The method of heat that traditional saunas use is called convection. In a sauna setting this means heating the air, which then heats your body. Plain and simple it does not produce the same amount of sweat that thermal radiation does. Infrared saunas work by actually charging the electrons in your body, causing thermal motion, which causes heat. Meaning, your body actually absorbs the infrared through your skin and your core temperature is raised as a result. This rise in core body temperature actually lasts a few hours after your sauna session.
I felt no core body temperature rise from the traditional sauna.
It was very weird because at the end of my 30 minute session I was sweating pretty deep, but once I got out of the sauna I got the chills and was extremely nauseous as it felt like my skin’s temperature was out of sync with my internal body temperature.
All in all I would say that I did not enjoy the traditional sauna as much as my far infrared sauna. Something that gets overlooked in infrared saunas is the fact that you get a really good passive aerobic cardiovascular exercise. Your heart really pumps in an infrared sauna. I did not experience the same heart rate in the traditional sauna. Instead, all I got was a headache, stomach pains and 30 minutes of hearing the annoying sound of the heater crinkling and crackling to heat the air to ungodly levels. I’ll be back in my infrared sauna today.