Story by Pamela A. Keene
Heat up your health and fitness routine in the new year with an in-home sauna. The physical, physiological and mental health benefits have been documented by leading medical organizations, including The Mayo Clinic, but before you buy, understand some basics.
“There are two types of saunas — a traditional sauna that can be used either for dry heat or steam and an infrared sauna that’s always operated dry,” says Adam Eubanks, sauna consultant with Georgia Spa Company, with several locations in North Georgia, including Buford, Athens and Auburn. “Over the past decade more and more people are buying in-home saunas, a concept that has been popular in Europe since the 1960s and ’70s.”
A traditional sauna operates using a wood-burning, electric or natural gas heater with a place to put sauna stones. Once it’s heated, pour small amounts of water over the heated stones to produce steam and increase the humidity inside the enclosed space. The temperatures can range upward of 185 degrees and are easily adjustable.
An infrared sauna uses light to generate heat. “An infrared sauna heats the user, not the air in the room,” Adam says. “It heats the body directly and results in lower overall temperatures. It uses wavelengths along the light spectrum and is far safer than a cellphone.”
The benefits of both types are similar. Sauna bathing generates sweat that helps flush toxins and cleanse the skin as the body temperature rises. The capillaries dilate and blood flow increases, benefiting the circulatory system and the heart. “If you have blood pressure issues or other health concerns, check with your physician before using any type of sauna,” Adam says.
“The appeal of saunas in general is that they cause reactions, such as vigorous sweating and increased heart rate, similar to those elicited by moderate exercise,” says Brent A. Bauer, M.D. with The Mayo Clinic. “An infrared sauna produces these results at lower temperatures than does a regular sauna, which makes it accessible to people who can’t tolerate the heat of a conventional sauna.”
Other benefits include stress relief, increased energy and deep detoxification of heavy metals, such as lead, copper, zinc, mercury and nickel. Time in a sauna relaxes muscles and reduces muscular and joint aches and pains. Regular sauna bathers experience deeper sleep, especially when they use the sauna near bedtime.
“Saunas can also help with cold and congestion issues,” Adam says. “And research has shown that it can help produce more white blood cells that help fight illness and help kill viruses.”
Adam says he often works with people who are building new homes and want to install a sauna during design and construction. “But it’s also fairly easy to install a sauna in an existing home,” he says. “When people are remodeling a master bath or finishing out a basement, it’s the perfect time to add a sauna to your lifestyle.”
An in-home sauna can be as small as 36 by 36 inches, which makes it easy to find the right place to install it. “Some people put them in an unused closet under a stairway,” he says. “Or they may put it in their garage. The keys to putting one in are accessibility and the size of the space.”
Prices for infrared sauna, not including the modification of the space or installation, start around $2,000 and range up to $6,000 or more. Traditional saunas are slightly more expensive — from about $3,000 to $8,000 for the equipment.
“We often have people who want us to design and install a custom sauna for them with multiple seating or more space,” Adam says.