Sauna belts have been touted as solutions for a range of issues. It’s claimed that they can help you lose weight, or trim your waist. The heat is said to ease the pain. And it’s even been suggested that they can help detox your body.
So are any of these claims true?
We’re going to separate the facts from the fiction. Do sauna belts work? Step this way to find out!
What are sauna belts?
Let’s start by being clear about what we’re talking about. A sauna belt is a piece of fabric that you wear around your middle. Despite the name, it’s usually much wider than a belt, covering an area perhaps a foot wide.
Sauna belts heat up at the press of a button, causing the skin underneath to sweat. The combination of heat and sweat is what lies behind the claims for their various benefits.
There is a wide range of different models on the market. You can get options designed for both men and women.
The latter even includes designs styled as corsets, for anyone longing for the lingerie look while they sweat. Some are even boned. Yes, apparently women’s apparel is heading back to the eighteenth century.
But do they actually work? Well, it depends on what you want them to do. Let’s take a look at the various claims one by one.
1. Sauna belt for weight loss
The claim for weight loss is pretty straightforward: heat up your middle and sweat out the pounds. As far as that goes, it’s fair enough. If you sweat, you lose moisture, and that moisture weighs something.
But what you’re losing is water, not fat. And as soon as you eat or drink something, the water will be absorbed straight back into your body.
The sweating means you may get a slight short-term effect. If you’re desperate to fit into a tight pair of jeans one evening, it’s possible it might help at the margins. But sauna belts aren’t a tool for anything but short-term loss of water-related weight.
And when you lose weight – even water – you lose it from all over your body. So expecting a sauna belt to slim down your waist more than anywhere else is a forlorn hope. It just won’t happen.
The idea that sauna belts can help with weight loss can also lead to problems. Anyone wearing one for long periods in a bid to lose weight quickly will find themselves in trouble. The most likely outcome is that they’ll get a nasty heat rash around their middle. They may even suffer burns.
You may also have seen articles encouraging you to wear a sauna belt whilst exercising. The claim is that this increases the benefit of exercise. Unfortunately, the opposite is true.
Wearing that tight-fitting belt can actually prevent your core muscles from engaging while you work out. So you actually get less of an impact from your hard work, rather than more.
In short, when it comes to weight loss, sauna belts work in only the most limited and short-term way. And they can have some unwanted side effects.
But can they be useful for anything else?
2. Sauna belt for detox
Another benefit often claimed for sauna belts is that they help remove toxins from the body. It’s the same claim that’s often made for saunas in general, and for sauna blankets. The theory goes that when you sweat, impurities are carried out of your body by perspiration. So is this true?
The short answer is sad “no”. And that goes for the sauna belt, the sauna blanket, and saunas period. But there is a tiny germ of fact behind the claim.
Sweating is one of the ways your body cools itself. It doesn’t have any other function, and it’s certainly not about removing toxins. That’s a job for your liver or kidneys. And they won’t be affected one jot by whether you’re wearing a sauna belt or are wrapped in a sauna blanket.
But what about that tiny germ of fact?
Well, sweat does contain some types of toxin. Contaminants like BPA (in plastics) and heavy metals dissolve readily in water. So when water is removed from your body in the form of sweat, tiny amounts of those toxins go with it.
So why doesn’t that count as detoxing? It’s all about the amounts that are involved. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
An average person doing about 45 minutes of moderate exercise will produce about 2 liters of sweat a day. That includes the standard level of perspiration produced when they’re not exercising too.
That quantity of sweat would include under a tenth of a nanogram of toxins. But what does that figure mean? In a nutshell – not very much. It’s about one 5,000th of the amount of those toxins you’ll consume in your diet in an average day.
So even if you double, triple or quadruple the amount you sweat, you won’t dent your toxin levels. And you’ll need to make sure you drink lots of water to replace the fluids you’ve lost.
All that means sauna belts are useless for detoxing too.
3. Sauna belt for Aches and pains
Another of the claims made for sauna belts is that they can help ease the pain. Here at last is something they can really help with.
When heat is applied to muscles, it helps them to relax and become more flexible. It also increases blood flow. All of this can be effective in promoting healing and reducing muscular pain.
The most obvious way to achieve this is with a heating pad or a good old-fashioned hot water bottle. Both can be very effective at alleviating pain.
But if you want to use a sauna belt instead, there’s no reason you shouldn’t. The position of most belts means they can be a helpful aid to easing back pain.
Just don’t overdo it, and keep the heat at a moderate level. You don’t want to replace your aches and pains with burns! People with diabetes or other conditions that cause nerve damage should take particular care. They may be less able to detect when the temperature is too high.
4. Sauna belt for Improving your posture
Another benefit often touted for sauna belts is that they can improve your posture. Because they’re made from firm yet lightweight material, the theory goes, they can help align your spine. And that can reduce pressure on your back and keep you standing tall.
So is it true? Sadly, this is another case where there’s very little to support (ha!) the claims.
Sauna belts can’t stop you from slouching. They’re made of fabric, not metal! And while they may make it slightly more uncomfortable, they’re unlikely to have a big impact.
And the heat won’t make any positive difference to your posture either. If anything, overheating may make you sag!
If you want to improve your posture, there are much better ways to do it. Exercise is one of the best, and it won’t cost you a cent.
Doing bridges, leg raises, planks, and thigh stretches can strengthen your core and buttock muscles and extend your back. All of that will help you stand tall and reduce back pain. Pilates is particularly good, because it focuses on engaging your core. Yoga can be very helpful too.
If you work at a desk, it’s also important to take the time to make sure it’s set up properly. The right chair position and desk height can encourage good posture as you work.
There are things you can avoid too. High heels are terrible for posture, because they make your bum stick out. And watch out for habits like hunching as you peer at your phone, or cradling a landline between your head and shoulder.
If you stand for long periods of time, try to pay attention to your posture. Many of us will place our weight on one leg, as that can feel more comfortable.
When we do this, though, we’re transferring the weight from our core and buttocks to one side of our back. And over time, that’s a recipe for back pain.
Try to get into the habit of placing your weight evenly on both feet. And this is another case where exercise will help. Strengthening your core and buttock muscles will make standing evenly more comfortable, even for longer periods. That in turn will remove the temptation to lean to one side.
So do sauna belts work?
That brings us to the end of our look at the various claims for the benefits of sauna belts. The sad truth is that most of them simply don’t stand up to scrutiny.
The heat can help with pain, but a heat pad or hot water bottle will work just as well. And with those, you’ll be able to position them wherever they’re needed.
And while a sauna belt may make you lose a little weight from sweating, it will be short-term. As soon as you eat or drink, the weight will go straight back on. And you won’t have made any impact on the fat in your body.
As so often, the sad truth is that the promised quick fix isn’t effective. If you want to lose weight, diet and exercise will do it. And the right exercises will be more effective than any sauna belt at improving your posture.