Infrared Workouts Look Fun—But Are They As Effective as They Seem?

Photo: Stocksy / Trinette Reed
Between meditating under the soothing glow of my LED face mask and getting in some reading while sipping my morning matcha, I’ve been all about habit stacking lately.

So when I came across a video of someone running on an infrared treadmill on TikTok—a not-so-great habit I’m trying to break—I was intrigued. I mean, what could be better than combining my daily workout with an infrared sauna session?

I’m not totally new to the idea of infrared workouts. In the past, HOTWORX came to my area and I immediately signed up for a membership for the studio that allows you to do virtually instructed workouts—including yoga, barre, Pilates, and even cycling—in an infrared sauna (which is just a type of sauna that uses light to make heat).

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And while they were ultra-relaxing (and, to be honest, sometimes had me just laying on my yoga mat enjoying the heat), the idea of utilizing a workout machine equipped with all the goodness of an infrared sauna sounds even better.

But even though these infrared workouts seem like the ultimate two-for-one deal, do you actually get more out of them than you would utilizing the equipment at your regular gym? Here’s everything you need to know.

What are infrared workouts and how do they work?

While HOTWORX’s infrared fitness saunas have been around since 2017 (and now have more than 500 locations scattered around the country), the futuristic-looking infrared exercise equipment is still fairly hard to find in the United States.

To give you a quick history lesson, Body Space, the Poland-based manufacturer of the equipment, first created the technology 20 years ago. Since then, it’s taken off at studios throughout Europe and is currently found in more than 45 countries.

In 2019, Cosmo Contour & Spa became the first to bring the infrared treadmills, ellipticals, StairMasters, rowing machines, and bikes to the U.S., with locations in Los Angeles and Miami. But thanks to social media and some celeb regulars (you may have spotted the studio on Selling Sunset), infrared workouts are now getting more attention. You can also find the infrared equipment at Aman New York and the newly-opened MG Body Space in Charlotte, North Carolina.

No matter which type of infrared workout you’re doing—like using an infrared fitness sauna or infrared exercise equipment—your body is responding the same way.

While traditional saunas heat up their air inside the sauna (which, in turn, makes you hot and sweaty), the infrared rays produced by infrared saunas—which can't be seen by the human eye—penetrate your skin and muscles and directly heat your body from the inside out, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Because of that, the average temperature of an infrared sauna is typically between 110°F and 135°F, per the Cleveland Clinic—much lower than traditional saunas, which can get near 200°F.

When the infrared rays penetrate your skin and muscles, your core body temperature increases. Then as your body works to cool itself, your heart starts pumping faster and you begin to sweat.

A small June 2019 study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine found these heart-boosting effects are similar to what you would experience during a workout on a stationary exercise bike.

“Ultimately, the key to gym success is consistency and effort. If you enjoy going to the infrared sauna and you’ll go more often, do it.” —Gregory Charlop, MD, a physician and wellness expert

Are infrared workouts actually good for you?

You’re likely well aware of all the benefits of working out regularly. So can adding infrared technology into the mix give your sweat sessions a boost?

“Infrared saunas and exercise are a perfect pair,” says Gregory Charlop, MD, a physician and wellness expert based in Atlanta, Georgia. “Saunas can supercharge your fitness by reducing muscle pain and speeding recovery. They also give you extra motivation for your workouts. You’ll be surprised at how fun it is to exercise under the warm, red glow.”

Research has shown infrared saunas may also improve your mood (including reducing anxiety and depression), boost your energy levels, better your cardiovascular health, and improve your skin health, so you could also find yourself feeling extra chipper and glowy post-workout.

With that being said, it’s important to note that working out in an infrared sauna or using infrared equipment can be more intense than a regular workout.

“Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration,” Dr. Charlop says. “People who have heart disease, are pregnant, or have chronic medical problems should consult their healthcare provider before starting any workout routine.”

If you decide to give infrared workouts a try, you should also take things slow. As fun as it seems to sprint on a glowing red treadmill, you want to wait to go that hard until your body gets used to the heat.

Should you give an infrared workout a try?

If you find yourself near a HOTWORX or a studio that has infrared exercise equipment, should you give an infrared workout a try? Go for it. Not only for the potential benefits, but also because it could be a fun way to spice up your routine.

“Ultimately, the key to gym success is consistency and effort. If you enjoy going to the infrared sauna and you’ll go more often, do it,” Dr. Charlop says.

But if you’d rather keep your workouts and sauna sessions separate, there’s no need to go overboard on the habit stacking. It’s hard to beat relaxing in the glow of the infrared sauna, eyes closed with a good podcast on, and not sweating any more than you already have to.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
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  2. Ahokas EK, Ihalainen JK, Hanstock HG, Savolainen E, Kyröläinen H. A post-exercise infrared sauna session improves recovery of neuromuscular performance and muscle soreness after resistance exercise training. Biol Sport. 2023 Jul;40(3):681-689. doi: 10.5114/biolsport.2023.119289. Epub 2022 Sep 15. PMID: 37398966; PMCID: PMC10286597.
  3. Mero A, Tornberg J, Mäntykoski M, Puurtinen R. Effects of far-infrared sauna bathing on recovery from strength and endurance training sessions in men. Springerplus. 2015 Jul 7;4:321. doi: 10.1186/s40064-015-1093-5. PMID: 26180741; PMCID: PMC4493260.
  4. Soejima Y, Munemoto T, Masuda A, Uwatoko Y, Miyata M, Tei C. Effects of Waon therapy on chronic fatigue syndrome: a pilot study. Intern Med. 2015;54(3):333-8. doi: 10.2169/internalmedicine.54.3042. PMID: 25748743.
  5. Crinnion WJ. Sauna as a valuable clinical tool for cardiovascular, autoimmune, toxicant- induced and other chronic health problems. Altern Med Rev. 2011 Sep;16(3):215-25. PMID: 21951023.

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