Sauna Weight Loss: Myths, Facts and Health Benefits

by Mara Welty May 02, 2024 5 min read

 Sauna Weight Loss


The warm, sometimes sweltering conditions of a sauna have long been touted for their potential health benefits. Namely, the heat may improve lung function, provide cardiovascular benefits, and help regulate blood pressure.

Lesser known are saunas’ potential to support weight loss.

Sauna weight loss is not a long-term solution, however. Rather, it’s a short-term effect that’s largely due to the loss of water weight through sweating.

What is Water Weight?

Water weight, also called edema, is a state in which there’s a build-up of fluid within the body. Water retention can occur for a number of reasons — namely, high-salt diets can often cause the body to hold on to extra liquid, although temporarily. Consistent water retention, on the other hand, often manifests as:

  • Swollen ankles
  • Swollen legs
  • Swollen feet

This condition can be caused by various factors such as hormonal changes, kidney or liver damage, heart problems, certain medications and/or prolonged sitting or standing.

Saunas and Water Weight

Traditional saunas operate with dry heat that’s trapped in a wooden containment. As you sit in the sauna, you can create more heat, humidity and steam by adding water to heated stones.

In a typical sauna, the temperature sits at around 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Accordingly, a sauna can increase your body temperature significantly. As a result, blood flow increases, which triggers the body to sweat and cool the skin.

Accordingly, people lose a lot of water through sweat when sitting in a sauna. That said, any weight loss you observe after a sauna session is due to a loss in body water — not fat or muscle.

Once you chug your bottle of ice-cold water, your weight is likely to return to normal.

Saunas and Burning Calories

Some saunas go beyond the ladle and heated stones. Infrared saunas, for example, utilize infrared to heat the body directly, rather than heating the air.

One study, published in 2017, found that 30 minutes in an infrared sauna can burn 400 to 600 calories, which may help support a weight-loss calorie deficit. Researchers also suggested that one infrared sauna session can lead to the loss of roughly one pound of body weight.

Further research published in 2019 found that four ten-minute sessions in a traditional sauna had a positive effect on young sedentary, overweight men. Namely, heart rate and energy expenditure increased. Changes in body mass index (BMI) and body surface area were also observed due to increased calorie burn. That said, water weight still played a role, with participants losing about 0.65 kilograms of body water during the study.

This study, along with another study published in 2018, confirmed that those with a higher body surface area and BMI experienced a higher body mass loss after sessions in the sauna.

That said, individuals should be careful when spending time in a sauna. The 2019 study observed that saunas led to unhealthy blood pressure levels in individuals with preexisting health conditions.

Saunas and Cholesterol

Interestingly, a 2014 study identified that sauna use may decrease cholesterol levels and may have similar effects as participating in a moderate-intensity workout.

Potential Risks of Sauna Use For Weight Loss

It’s important to note that saunas are not a miracle solution for weight loss and should not be abused. In extreme heat, your body can enter a state of dehydration, which can lead to:

  • Mouth dryness
  • Extreme thirst
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Infrequent urination

As a general rule, it’s advised to avoid alcohol while using a sauna and drink two to four glasses of water following a session to cool down and rehydrate. Also, avoid prolonging your sauna session for more than 30 minutes.

Further, high heat can pose a significantly higher threat of dehydration to people with preexisting conditions involving the kidneys and heart.

To the latter, high-heat environments can cause blood vessels to expand and boost circulation. While this can be beneficial to healthy individuals, those with a preexisting condition can experience irregularities in their heartbeat. Additionally, those with unhealthy blood pressure should avoid transitioning from extreme heat to extreme cold (such as a shower), as it may have a negative effect on blood pressure.

Additional Potential Health Benefits of Saunas

Beyond the realms of weight loss, saunas offer a spectrum of potential health benefits. Namely, regular sauna usage has been associated with several positive outcomes:

  • Pain relief from sore muscles – Saunas can help with post-workout recovery by promoting relaxation and improving blood flow to the muscles.
  • Stress reduction – The calming environment of a sauna, coupled with the release of endorphins triggered by heat exposure, can help alleviate stress and promote a sense of relaxation.
  • Skin cleansing – Sweating in the sauna opens up pores and helps flush out toxins, which can contribute to clearer, healthier-looking skin. Sweating profusely in a sauna can also aid in detoxification by eliminating heavy metals through the skin.
  • Immune system support – Some research suggests that regular sauna use may strengthen the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells and enhancing the body's ability to fight off bugs.
  • Improved respiratory function – The heat and steam in a sauna can help open up airways, making it easier to breathe, which may benefit individuals with respiratory conditions.
  • Mood enhancement – Sauna sessions have been linked to improved mood and overall well-being, possibly due to the release of endorphins and the relaxation induced by the heat.

Fact: INVIGOR8 Offers Weight Loss Support

Although saunas are unlikely to cause immediate fat loss, they can reduce water retention in the body and may facilitate conditions within the body that are more conducive to calorie burn. To complement these benefits, we invite you to explore how to lose weight naturally with sustainable methods that include balanced dieting and regular physical activity.

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  1. WebMD. What to Know About Saunas and Your Health
  2. Healthline. 8 Easy Ways to Lose Water Weight (Fast and Safely)
  3. Medical News Today. Can saunas help with weight loss?
  4. Healthline. Do Saunas Help with Weight Loss?
  5. NYTimes. Saunas Are Filling Up, but Are They Actually Good for You?

About the Author

 Mara Welty
Mara Welty

Mara Welty is a copywriter who specializes in health, wellness and CBD topics. With a background in journalism, she aims to deliver engaging, research-based content that builds trust and engages readers through informative storytelling.

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