This Portable Infrared Sauna Is the Peloton of Recovery Tools—Here’s Why a Physical Therapist Recommends Investing In One

Photo: Stocksy/Trinette Reed, Sunlighten, & W+G Creative
Once a luxury reserved for the nicest spas and gyms, you might've noticed infrared saunas have been popping up in more and more accessible places, like workout studios and even in people's homes.

Why have they been increasing in popularity, especially within the fitness space, you may be wondering? It's simple: The wellness benefits of saunas, specifically infrared ones, leave them unmatched in the recovery space.

But first, what's the difference between an infrared sauna and a regular sauna? According to physical therapist Luke Greenwell, DPT, CSMT, CSCS, it's all about how they emit heat. "An infrared sauna is a type of either personal or multiple person boxed sauna that uses infrared heaters to emit radiant heat," Dr. Greenwell says. "This type of heat is directly absorbed into the skin, unlike conventional saunas that work to warm the heat around you. The infrared rays are able to penetrate the skin and generate warmth from within, inducing a sweat at a much lower temperature than conventional saunas."

It's this combination of radiant heat paired with the therapeutic properties of infrared light that makes infrared saunas worth the investment, Dr. Greenwell says. And if you want to get in on all the benefits of infrared saunas (more on those below) but you don't have a ton of space, the Sunlighten Solo System portable sauna is the way to go.

"The Solo System is arguably the best portable unit on the market because it has the same, patented heaters that power Sunlighten's cabin saunas," says Natasha Navarro, infrared light specialist at Sunlighten. "You get the highest quantity and quality of infrared, but in a compact form."

Curious about infrared sauna benefits, especially when it comes to recovery? Here's how they can aid your health and why Dr. Greenwell and Navarro both recommend installing one.

1. Improves circulation

One thing's for sure: No one likes to feel sore, even if it means your workout was productive. Having optimal circulation after you exercise can help oxygen and nutrients get to your muscles more efficiently, which can support the repairing and regenerating of muscles and tissues post-workout, Dr. Greenwell says.

"With the ability to increase circulation, use of a sauna following a workout will allow for enhanced blood flow to your tissues, enhancing healing following exercise," Dr. Greenwell says. "These advantages allow for the potential to recover more quickly following exercise and potentially reduce the risk of injury and prolonged muscle fatigue and soreness."

2. Relieves pain

If you've ever had an injury that has left you unable to work out quite as much as you previously were, you know the feeling of itching to move your body. For those suffering from musculoskeletal pain or chronic pain conditions, exercising at the frequency or intensity that you want can be a challenge. That's because pain can limit your range of motion, decrease flexibility, and impede overall mobility, making it physically and mentally challenging to exercise, Dr. Greenwell says.

"Infrared saunas can provide a level of pain relief and discomfort reduction that will increase people’s tolerance to exercise by decreasing the discomfort they are in before and after they exercise," Dr. Greenwell says. He recommends using a sauna after you workout for 20 to 45 minutes three times a week, and then another two to three times a week at the same length for recovery and relaxation purposes to really soak up the infrared sauna benefits. (Just make sure you're listening to your body and checking in with your doctor so you don't overdo it!)

3. Detoxifies

It's no secret—today's world is not a clean one. Because of the many applications of heavy metals in our society (they're used in factories, on farms, and in technology, to name a few), we come into contact with them every day, despite the fact that some are classified as known or probable human carcinogens. The most effective way to release these toxic metals from our body? Through sweat.

"Infrared sauna has been proven most effective at excreting some heavy metals from the body through sweat, including some key culprits of aging and disease—cadmium, mercury, and lead," Navarro says. "By effectively removing accumulated toxicants and heavy metals from the body, infrared sauna helps combat the aging process and promotes overall well-being and longevity."

4. Relaxes

"We know that chronically high levels of stress can lead to a myriad of health issues that can include cardiovascular problems, weakened immune system, impaired mental clarity, and poor sleep," Dr. Greenwell says. "Improving relaxation throughout your day can positively influence these categories and ultimately improve your health and risk for health related events."

The heat from a sauna helps to relax your tense muscles after a long day, letting your body physically relax. Pro-tip? Try meditating while you're in the sauna to help your brain relax, too. Talk about whole-body unwinding.

"There is no better gift you can give yourself than good health," Navarro says. "To have a device like an infrared sauna to help you feel better is a no-brainer. When you prioritize your well-being, everything else falls into place."

Interested in the infrared sauna benefits of Sunlighten's Solo System or home saunas? Check out the pricing form for more information. Plus, Well+Good readers can get up to $600 off of Sunlighten products right now.

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