Deciding between an infrared and a traditional sauna can be a puzzling choice for wellness enthusiasts. Both types promise relaxation and health benefits but with distinct experiences and technologies.
In this guide, we unravel the key differences to help you make a well-informed decision that suits your personal health goals and lifestyle preferences.
Whether it’s the soothing heat of a traditional Finnish sauna or the targeted warmth of an infrared sauna, your path to relaxation and well-being starts here.
Traditional Finnish Sauna: A Blend of Heat, Steam, and Tradition
The traditional Finnish sauna stands as a cornerstone of sauna culture, deeply ingrained in Finnish heritage.
Dating back over 2,000 years, these saunas have evolved from simple pits in the ground to the modern wooden structures we see today.
Known for its intense high temperatures, it offers a unique feature known as löyly – the art of creating a short, intense burst of steam by pouring water over heated stones.
This practice is more than just a heating technique; it’s a ritual that defines the Finnish sauna experience.
- Heating Method: Traditional Finnish saunas heat the air within the room, typically using a sauna stove that holds rocks. This method creates an evenly distributed warmth that engulfs the entire space.
- Temperature Range: Operating between 130 to 230 degrees Fahrenheit, these saunas provide a robust and intense heat that deeply penetrates the body, promoting a sense of profound warmth and relaxation.
- Löyly – The Heart of Finnish Sauna: Central to its allure, löyly is the steam released by pouring water onto hot stones. This element is not just about adding humidity; it’s about enhancing the sauna experience, making it richer and more sensory.
Fun fact: The question “How was the löyly?” is a loaded one for Finns, often stirring up long discussions and detailed analysis.
One of the most significant health benefits of traditional Finnish saunas is their impact on cardiovascular health.
High temperatures in these saunas are believed to stimulate blood flow and improve circulation, which can be beneficial for heart health.
Studies have specifically noted a reduction in cardiovascular mortality among frequent sauna users, indicating a potential long-term benefit for heart health.
Another intriguing benefit observed in traditional sauna users is a lower incidence of cognitive diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
The heat stress induced by high temperatures in a traditional sauna might have a protective effect on brain health. This suggests that regular sauna use could be a valuable practice for cognitive preservation and overall mental wellness.
Studies, such as the one conducted by Laukkanen et al., indicate a significant inverse association between sauna bathing frequency and the risk of neurocognitive diseases, highlighting the potential of sauna use in supporting cognitive health.
Stress Relief and Mental Well-being
Beyond the physical health advantages, the traditional Finnish sauna offers a sanctuary for mental relaxation and stress relief.
The practice of löyly, creating comforting and soothing steam, contributes to a meditative and relaxing environment, which can be incredibly beneficial for mental health and emotional well-being.
Ideal for Who?
The traditional Finnish sauna is a haven for those who savor intense, deep heat coupled with a culturally rich experience.
It appeals to health-conscious individuals drawn to the benefits of high-temperature environments.
Additionally, it is ideal for those who relish the rituals and traditions of a sauna, offering a holistic experience beyond mere relaxation.
In the next section, we’ll focus on the modern innovation of the infrared sauna, comparing its technological advancements, user experience, and health benefits with the traditional Finnish sauna.
Infrared Sauna: Modern Wellness Technology
Infrared saunas, an alternative to traditional Finnish-style saunas, use infrared light to directly heat the body.
The development of the infrared sauna began with the invention of the “Incandescent Light Bath” by John Harvey Kellogg in 1891, which used incandescent light bulbs that emitted infrared light to stimulate sweating and healing.
However, the first patent for a far-infrared sauna was received by a Japanese doctor in 1965, and this technology remained in Japan for medical use until the late 1970s. It was then released for public use and later introduced to the United States in the 1980s.
Key Differences and Benefits
- Heating Method: Use panels that emit infrared light waves that penetrate your skin and directly raise your core body temperature.
- Lower Temperature: They typically function at a range of 113 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, providing a gentler heat experience.
- Ease of Use: Infrared saunas are known for their increased comfort, suitability for home use, and lower purchase cost compared to traditional saunas.
- Energy consumption: Use about 1.6 kW of power per session, which is roughly a third of what a traditional electric sauna uses, making them less expensive from a power perspective.
- Humidity: Do not use steam and therefore do not affect the humidity of the room.
Specific Health Benefits
There are more studies on traditional saunas, but the research on infrared saunas suggests that the benefits may be similar.
Both types of saunas are associated with health benefits such as improved cardiovascular health and immune function.
- Heart Disease and Longevity: Infrared saunas show similar evidence in benefiting heart health and longevity as traditional saunas.
- Brain Health and Mental Health: They are also beneficial for brain function and mental health, with some studies favoring infrared saunas for these aspects.
- Chronic Pain and Fatigue: Infrared saunas are especially noted for their positive impact on chronic pain and fatigue, making them a suitable option for those suffering from these conditions.
Ideal for Who?
- Home Sauna Enthusiasts: Infrared saunas are perfect for individuals looking for a comfortable, affordable, and convenient sauna experience at home.
- Sensitive to High Heat: Those who find traditional sauna temperatures too intense may prefer the gentler heat of infrared saunas.
- Chronic Pain and Fatigue Sufferers: Given their effectiveness in alleviating chronic pain and fatigue, infrared saunas are ideal for individuals dealing with these conditions.
Considerations and Disadvantages
- Limited Research: There is less research available on infrared saunas compared to traditional saunas, which may be a consideration for some users.
- EMF Risks: Potential risks associated with electromagnetic fields (EMF) exposure in infrared saunas should be considered.
- Variety of Wavelengths: Infrared saunas vary in the type of infrared wavelengths they emit, which can influence their effectiveness and user experience.
Making the Choice
When deciding between a traditional Finnish sauna and an infrared sauna, it’s not just about choosing a relaxation method. It’s about picking a path that aligns with your health needs, personal comfort, and lifestyle.
Let’s dive into some fascinating insights and make this decision an easier one.
Wellness Benefits: More Than Just Heat
A Holistic Experience: The traditional Finnish sauna offers a holistic experience. The heat, the steam (löyly), and the atmosphere contribute to overall well-being, not just physical detoxification but also mental relaxation and social interaction.
Targeted Health Benefits: While infrared saunas are excellent for targeted health benefits like muscle relaxation and improved circulation, traditional saunas offer a more immersive experience that can have broader wellness impacts.
A Look at the Research
A comprehensive review of 40 studies with over 3,800 participants revealed that there is no clear winner between traditional and infrared saunas when it comes to health benefits.
These studies examined benefits for heart disease, longevity, brain health, mental health, chronic pain, and fatigue.
For heart disease and longevity, traditional saunas have the edge, while for mental health and chronic pain, infrared saunas show similar evidence of benefits.
The Lifestyle Aspect: Embracing Tradition or Modernity
Traditional Finnish Sauna: It’s not just about heat; it’s about embracing a centuries-old tradition. If you’re someone who values historical practices, enjoys the ritual of heating the sauna, and the communal aspect of sauna sessions, the traditional Finnish sauna is more than a wellness tool – it’s a lifestyle choice.
Infrared Sauna: On the flip side, if you’re looking for a quick, convenient way to relax and detoxify without the rituals and preparation, an infrared sauna aligns more with a modern, fast-paced lifestyle.
Infrared saunas are typically easier to install in modern homes and are often less expensive, making them a practical choice for many.
Traditional saunas, on the other hand, might require more space and investment but offer an authentic sauna experience and potentially better overall well-being in the long term.
Are you leaning toward the traditional Finnish sauna experience?
BZB Saunas offers top-notch traditional outdoor sauna kits that are not only easy to assemble but also immerse you in the authentic Finnish sauna experience.
With BZB, you have the flexibility of DIY assembly or opting for our professional assembly service. Whichever route you take, BZB Saunas ensures that your journey to wellness is as seamless as it is enriching.
Check out BZB Saunas today and take the first step towards a healthier, more relaxed you.