Infrared Sauna vs Steam Room: What’s the Difference?
Infrared saunas and steam rooms have several similarities, and when it comes to the overall health benefits of infrared saunas and steam rooms, there are some stark differences. The main difference lies in the type of heat that is generated in each room. Dry heat, and wet heat. You can think of them as summer in Florida (steam) vs summer in Arizona (sauna). When it comes to infrared vs steam sauna, both of these amenities are a fantastic addition to your gym routine, but we want to look further into the differences, similarities, and how to include them into your time at the gym.
Similarities in Steam Room And Sauna
Infrared saunas and steam rooms both exist to heighten your body’s core temperature and release toxins from the body. Far infrared therapy saunas reach temperatures of about 120ºF to 140ºF while a steam room sits at about 120ºF or less. While a traditional sauna room is generally built of wood, a hot steam room can be built out of glass or a non-porous tile and then sealed up to entrap the steam within the room. Then an electric generator is used in the steam room to maintain the specific climate, creating its almost 100% humidity. This means that a hot steam room often feels a lot hotter than it actually is. So, the temperature does not need to be quite as high as that of a sauna room. Even though you will probably sweat much more in a steam room, chances are, you will not get as much heat.
Two Different Types of Heat
Remember that intro paragraph where we talked about the wet and dry heat? Well, that is the main difference between the two rooms. But there is more than meets the eye. When you are sitting in a steam bath, your body is being heated from the outside in. This means that the air around you is hot, which makes your skin and body hot, which then heats the inside of your body as well. Contrastly, a far infrared sauna heats you from the inside out. This is due to the far infrared rays wavelengths which are the longest infrared wavelengths and can penetrate deep into the skin. These infrared rays are what allow us to get the benefits of sitting in the sun, without the harmful UV rays that come along with it — something that a steam room does not have. So, when it comes to deep, penetrating heat, the infrared sauna therapy wins out.
Benefits of the Sauna and Steam Room
The sauna and steam room both have their place in your gym routine, and even though they do differ, they also share some of the same benefits. So, if you are looking for any of the following benefits in your life, think about which sort of heat you would rather sit in:
1 |Increased Blood Flow
Our bodies are consistently circulating fluids. The most important of these is blood. With blood flowing at five quarts per minute, it is a system that you should want to function and function well. Poor circulation can cause issues like numbness, fluid retention, and the ever-beloved bloating, among many others. Sitting in a heated room like a sauna or steam room allows for your capillaries to dilate which aids in easier blood flow. This, along with de-stressing, drinking more water, and exercise will all help in getting your circulation up to par!
2 | Opening Your Nasal Passages
The humidity in a steam room helps with respiratory relief by opening the sinuses and nasal passages which allow for easier breathing. Similarly, the heat from the sauna session can aid in opening your bronchial and nasal passages, which can offer relief when you have a cold, or just make you breathe a little easier altogether.
3 | Increase That Metabolism
As for the steam room vs sauna for weight loss debate, it may be obvious that you are losing water weight in each of these rooms due to the sweat on your brow. But, you may be surprised to learn that these rooms are actually making your body work overtime to bring your body’s core temperature back down into the normal range. This is how we are able to burn extra calories and the reason that saunas and steam rooms both help to increase metabolism. So, choose which room is right for you and get those metabolic benefits!
4 | Purifying Your Skin
Steam is great for moisturizing and purifying the skin. This is why you see a lot of “steam” facials at spas. Heat opens up the pores, and sweat helps to clean them out. Just make sure to get the most benefit by rinsing your face and applying a nice moisturizer after your session. Far infrared sauna sessions go even further. Not only does it provide the heat to help sweat out those toxins, but far infrared sauna therapy helps to remove heavy metals from the skin, and can even rejuvenate collagen. Now that’s a benefit!
When push comes to shove, the sauna and steam room are both great additions to your gym routine. The question is, which heat therapy option would you want to use more frequently. That may simply come down to whether or not you prefer wet or dry heat, and if you like both — you’re in luck! Using the sauna and steam room is safe. Just be sure to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Fill up your bottle and drink water before, during and after each session. As always, if you have a medical condition or want to know if these options are right for you, contact your physician. They should be able to set you on the best path to wellness.
Want to try out a sauna or steam room at a Chuze Fitness near you? Check out our gyms with saunas below!
Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
- Bauer, Brent A. “What is an infrared sauna? Does it have health benefits?” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/infrared-sauna/faq-20057954
- Kindberg, Sara. “Is an Infrared Sauna Better Than a Traditional Sauna?” Healthline. Updated on 29 may, 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/infrared-sauna-benefits
- Brabaw, Kasandra et Benton, Emilia. “Steam Room Vs. Sauna: Which One Is Healthier?” Women’s Health Mag. 8 August, 2018. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a26446700/sauna-vs-steam-room-benefits/
- “Traditional Steam Sauna vs Infrared Sauna (Detailed comparison, cost, benefits and more…) SpaWorld. https://www.spaworld.com.au/learn/articles/traditional-steam-sauna-vs-infrared-sauna-detailed-comparison-cost-benefits/