How many of us want to lose weight? Perhaps we just need to shift a few pounds ahead of summer to get that perfect beach body or maybe it’s a more challenging goal due to the well-known health risks of being seriously overweight, but for lots of us, it’s a never-ending battle.
But what if there was an easy method that required no effort beyond wrapping yourself in a blanket? That’s the claim being made about the latest health fad, so to evaluate the truth behind it, here we discuss the question, do infrared sauna blankets work for weight loss?
If you want some general info about infrared sauna blankets as well as a preview of some of the stuff we’re going to be talking about, you can also check out this video before reading on.
What’s an infrared sauna and how is it different from a regular sauna?
Before we start talking about infrared sauna blankets and their efficacy when it comes to weight loss, let’s start by talking about infrared saunas in general and how they differ from regular traditional saunas.
Most people know what a regular Finnish-style sauna looks like. It usually consists of a small wooden room that’s heated by steam, either piped into the room directly or, more traditionally, from water thrown over hot stones.
With this type of sauna, the general idea is to go inside, close the door, sit down and sweat.
They can be pretty hot too – uncomfortably so for some since the temperatures can reach up to around 200°F.
You don’t usually stay inside for more than around 10 minutes or so – and staying in a sauna for too long at those kinds of temperatures can be dangerous.
However, after leaving the sauna, many aficionados like to plunge into a cold pool before repeating the process several times.
Infrared saunas, on the other hand, are a bit different.
A more comfortable, less intense experience
Rather than relying on steam to heat the space, your body is heated by infrared light. One of the first things you’ll notice is the lower temperature – infrared saunas don’t go above around 120-140°F.
This means you stay inside for longer, and it can take up to 15 minutes before you even start sweating.
One result is that the whole experience is a whole lot less intense and more relaxing, but proponents suggest that infrared saunas also offer a whole range of health benefits beyond those you can expect from a regular sauna.
We’ll come to those benefits in a moment, but before we talk about that, now let’s talk about what an infrared sauna blanket is.
What’s an infrared sauna blanket?
The problem with infrared saunas is that they’re quite specialist pieces of equipment, meaning you need to have a place near you that offers this service.
Then the other problem is the price – since treatments usually aren’t cheap. Which is where infrared sauna blankets come in.
Essentially, they are exactly what they sound like – a blanket (or perhaps more like a sleeping bag) that’s heated inside by infrared light.
You simply get inside, switch it on and then lie there and sweat. This allows you to enjoy all the benefits of an infrared sauna from the comfort of your own home. Or so the thinking goes.
So what are these supposed benefits? Let’s have a look at them now.
What are the supposed health benefits of infrared saunas?
The health benefits of regular saunas have long been known, but infrared saunas are claimed to have all these and more. The benefits of infrared saunas – as well as infrared sauna blankets – may include any of the following:
- Extend life
- Raise heart rate and metabolism
- Boost blood flow and improve circulation
- Reduce high blood pressure
- Boost immunity
- Reduce toxins
- Reduce stress
- Reduce inflammation, aches and pains
- Speed up recovery after exercise
- Improve mood
- Improve skin
- Burn calories
- Burn fat
- Heal wounds
- Reduce side effects from diabetes
- Reduce chronic fatigue syndrome
- Fight cancer
Is this backed up by science?
This is a long list, and these are quite some claims, but is there any science to back them up?
While we don’t have space to go into each item on the list here, the important thing to note is that many of these benefits are simply inferred from the benefits of regular saunas, but since they’re not the same, it’s not good science to simply assume this is true without testing.
Similarly, even if there is evidence for these benefits when using infrared saunas, it still doesn’t prove that these benefits exist for infrared sauna blankets.
At the same time, infrared saunas and saunas blankets are relatively new inventions, and little work has been done to prove or disprove these claims.
This means that just because there is currently little evidence for these claims, it doesn’t prove that they’re false – it just means more work is required to provide evidence to back them up.
With this in mind, now let’s talk about the evidence for infrared saunas and blankets being able to help with weight loss.
Is there any evidence infrared saunas and blankets can help with weight loss?
So now we come to the central question of this post – do infrared sauna blankets help with weight loss? And the short answer is that there is very little evidence to suggest they do.
When you use any kind of sauna, you lose weight – but this doesn’t mean you are losing fat. Rather, you are losing water, which is not the same thing.
However, some people have suggested other ways that infrared saunas can help you reduce your body fat. Here are some of the ways it is thought to work:
Increases heart rate and metabolism, burning calories
One idea is that sitting in an infrared sauna or wrapping yourself in an infrared sauna blanket increases your heart rate, which is true.
However, some people take this a step further and suggest that this also increases your metabolism.
You may also hear some numbers being quoted – tor example, that an infrared sauna session burns up to 600 calories or that half an hour in an infrared sauna is the same as a 40-minute workout of moderate intensity.
Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work like that. Just because your heart rate increases after sport and after an infrared sauna, it doesn’t follow that you burn the same number of calories, and there is no scientific proof or validation for this theory whatsoever.
Infrared light burns fat directly
It has been claimed that infrared light can penetrate your body and burn away your fat deposits directly, which you then sweat out through your skin.
However, this idea is even more fanciful since if the light burns your fat, what’s stopping it burning away anything else like your skin or internal organs?
Even if the logic of this counterargument isn’t enough to convince you, there have been no scientific studies to show that infrared light “burns off” fat, and until there are, we can safely forget about this idea.
Small study showing some positive results
Even if these first two suggestions aren’t backed by science, there is one study that appears to provide some support for the idea that infrared treatments can help.
In the experiment, a group of volunteers took three 45-minute infrared saunas per week for four months while another group didn’t use infrared saunas at all.
After four months, it was recorded that the sauna-using group had lost an average of 4% of their body fat, which at first glance appears to show some correlation between infrared saunas and weight loss.
However, there were several problems with the experiment.
First, the eating and exercising habits of the volunteers were not monitored, so nothing proves that the saunas were indeed responsible for the result.
Second, the test was not done “blind”, which can change results.
And third, the test group was too small, which can allow results to be affected simply by random chance.
That’s not to say that there is no correlation between infrared saunas and weight loss – it just means that this test alone wasn’t robust enough to prove it.
Are there any plausible reasons why they might help?
So for the time being, the science hasn’t proved that infrared saunas or blankets can help with weight loss, but at the same time, science hasn’t disproved it either. So are there any plausible – as yet untested – reasons why it might work? Let’s have a look now.
One idea is that infrared sauna blankets and infrared saunas can help reduce stress.
This is one of the well-known benefits of using a regular sauna, and although there is less research into infrared saunas or sauna blankets, it is reasonable to suppose that the infrared versions can have a similar effect.
This is important because stress is a significant factor that can contribute to weight gain or an inability to lose weight we’ve already put on.
When stressed, many people eat food that isn’t good for them, while others turn to binge eating for comfort. Stress can also cause people to drink more, another common cause of weight gain.
However, when we are less stressed, we are more likely to live healthy lives, exercise more and make better dietary choices.
As a result, by using an infrared sauna or sauna blanket to reduce stress, you may find it easier to lose weight or to avoid weight gain in the first place.
Help with recovery after exercise
Another area where using an infrared sauna or blanket may help is that it accelerates recovery after exercise.
If you are a regular gym-goer but suffer from aches or pains after each visit, it may limit your ability to return to the gym as quickly for your next session. Similarly, a stiff body may also limit your ability to put in a strenuous session when you finally make it back.
However, if you spend time in an infrared sauna or a sauna blanket after working out, it may help your body recover more quickly, allowing you to go back to the gym sooner and to work out harder when you’re there.
This means that while using an infrared sauna or blanket won’t burn the fat in itself, when used with other more traditional methods of weight loss, there’s reason to believe that it could contribute.
Are there any dangers to using an infrared sauna blanket?
So to summarize what we’ve said so far, while it hasn’t been conclusively proven that using infrared blankets or saunas leads to weight loss, there may be reason to believe that they can help when used alongside other techniques.
But are there any dangers?
Some people might read that infrared light is a type of radiation, and the word “radiation” may set alarm bells ringing.
However, there are many types of “radiation”, and the dangerous ones like UV radiation, X-ray radiation and gamma-ray radiation are the ones with very high-frequency waves.
Infrared radiation, on the other hand, has very low-frequency waves – lower than light in the visible spectrum. So while UV, X-ray and gamma radiation can be dangerous and even cause cancer, infrared light is considered extremely safe.
That said, infrared saunas and sauna blankets are still very new, so much research still needs to be done.
However, what we can say is that although there may be dangers we don’t yet know about, there are probably lots of benefits we still don’t understand too.
On balance, there’s little to make us think they are dangerous but there’s good reason to believe they can do you some good.
In short, you can go ahead and try it because it probably won’t hurt you! There are likely to be several health benefits – and one of them may be that, one way or another, infrared saunas or blankets can help you lose weight.
As we’ve seen, plenty of claims have been made about the benefits of infrared saunas and infrared sauna blankets – and there are plenty of people who are convinced they work.
In terms of weight loss, there is currently little evidence to support these claims, but at the same time, there are logical reasons to think they might help – and since they probably don’t pose any health risks, there’s no reason you shouldn’t give them a go.