Last Updated on March 21, 2018 by Michael Brockbank
Saunas are really nothing new. Many people have small units built into their homes as a place to unwind and relax. Sunlight saunas, also known as UV saunas, are just a newer iteration of a common element in many sports gyms. But do they have basis to help reduce weight as well as blood pressure?
The short answer is yes, but with an asterisk. Some of the claims of UV sauna manufacturers are just a bit too high and many are not even based in science. However, there is a benefit to using heat and UV rays to aid in general health as well as weight loss.
And those are based in scientific evidence.
What are Sunlight Saunas?
A sunlight sauna essentially uses ultraviolet light to heat up the body instead of traditional methods. Instead of steam filling the room, it’s all based in UV refraction. Many space heaters work on the same principle.
Think of sitting in front of an EdenPure.
In this instance, you wouldn’t have to worry about water damage to the property or trying to adapt to a humid atmosphere. In reality, it’s kind of like sitting in a hot room that is purposely at a higher temperature.
Claims of Sunlight Saunas
Manufacturers selling sunlight saunas remind me of many who peddle fad diet plans that have no scientific basis in fact or products that promote unbelievable elements. Many of these products work on merely the placebo principle – if you believe it works, then it will.
The website “Goop” comes to mind.
While some claims are true regardless if the unit is heated by UV or a trash fire, others seem a bit more outlandish. Let’s take a closer look at some of the more prominent claims of many UV sauna producers.
The Effects of Ultraviolet Light
Ultraviolet light isn’t exactly the healthiest thing for humans. This form of radiation leads to cell damage, which often turns into cancer. But it’s the degree in which humans are exposed that creates the problem.
No, this doesn’t mean your fish lamp or flower grow lights are going to kill you. I just thought I’d let you know how much damage too much UV can cause to the human body.
With that being said, the most notable benefit of UV light such as that from the sun is helping the body produce vitamin D. This affects a myriad of things inside us such as bone health and even reducing colon polyps.
Weight Loss Through Heat
The Internet is full of claims regarding temperature as a way to modify how the body burns fat. In most instances I’ve found, higher ambient temperatures influence how many carbs are used during a workout.
But what about sitting idle in those same temperatures?
According to one study, using a dry sauna such as one powered by UV reduces the body mass of a subject. However, this loss is generally caused by dehydration. It’s advised those who are high on the BMI scale to keep themselves hydrated as they are the most susceptible to a loss of fluids in this situation.
An increase of your heart rate is related to calorie burn. But think of it more as an after effect of a workout. When you see your pulse increase while exercising, you know you’re burning calories. But is the same true for sitting in a sauna?
Some sources state how an increase in body temperature affects metabolism while expending more calories. So, if you sit in a hot tub, you’ll burn more calories as your heart rate increases to compensate for temperature regulation.
I’ve actually watched my heart rate increase in a hot tub by 15 to 20 beats per minute.
Does this mean sunlight saunas are good for weight loss? While I couldn’t find any solid evidence to support the claim, the effects of heat on the human body are well documented. I would have to assume that these units do help in calorie burn based on the human response to temperature.
Lowering Blood Pressure
Like I said, an increase of UV exposure increases the amount of vitamin D in the body. One of the side effects is normalizing blood pressure, according to a study at Boston University.
The relaxing nature of the sauna itself is also enough to reduce blood pressure. However, meditation for many has nearly the same effect. So, I can’t say absolutely if sunlight saunas specifically target stress because any form of relaxation does as well.
Sitting in a tub of soothing hot water has a similar effect for some.
Detoxifying the Body?
The body’s natural method for detoxifying is through urination. Our kidneys do the work of pulling various junk out so we can excrete it. The purpose of the sweat glands is to help regulate body temperature and keep us cool. So, how does a sauna help detoxify the body through sweat?
According to UV sauna claims, the sweat created from sitting in the unit is a deeper experience because of UV penetration which pulls toxins out. Unfortunately, I am unable to find any evidence to support that claim. In fact, I’m not the only one who is unable to find evidence of detoxification through UV saunas as Kelly Conaboy, contributor to the Atlantic, couldn’t find evidence either.
Because of the lack of evidence, I would have to say that sunlight saunas don’t detox the body. It’s just another one of those “strap some pads to your feet to pull out the toxins” gimmicks. It could be true, but without evidence it makes it unlikely.
Relieving Pain and Healing
In one study, thermotherapy for acute back pain was deemed successful. Thanks to the use of heat, subjects felt less pain. It’s important to note that people using cryotherapy also felt less pain. However, thermotherapy had the greater impact.
In 2009, it was found that infrared saunas relieved pain for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. The study showed a significant difference in pain and stiffness to exposure.
Using heat to relieve pain is also something that isn’t new to sunlight saunas. People have used products like Icy Hot for years to deliver pain relief. Heating pads also come to mind.
It’s believed heat causes white blood cells to flood into an affected area to begin repairs. One of the side effects is…pain relief. So it makes sense how saunas can influence pain and healing, especially since hot tubs are often prescribed for the same purpose.
Many correlate anti-aging to keeping the skin looking young and fresh. This is why many beauty products include soluble collagen, a compound that promotes healthier skin. Studies show how IR radiation therapy increases total levels of soluble collagen as well as soluble elastin.
What does this mean to you? It means IR treatments do have basis for keeping skin healthier as well as flexible. However, this study did not subject people to UV-powered saunas.
Because it uses similar technology, I would assume the IR penetration of the sauna is close to the effectiveness as the unit used in the study.
I’m still looking for more information regarding that aspect of IR use and if it’s connected to UV units in the same regard.
So, What Does all this Mean?
Based on the evidence I can find, sunlight saunas have a range of positive benefits. The only thing that can’t be substantiated is the claim for detoxifying. Everything else has basis in some kind of scientific fact.
Does this mean you should buy one today? Probably not.
While there is a lot of positive elements to the unit, you can get a similar effect using traditional saunas or perhaps simply sitting in a sun-lit room…or perhaps slapping on some sun screen and going outside.
The bottom line is UV saunas really don’t add anything more to the experience aside from being a dry heat. The upside is you wouldn’t have to worry about moisture condensation or mold growth.
If you know of any facts or evidence I can add to this article, feel free to leave a comment. I love learning new things and appreciate the input. Personally, I just couldn’t find a lot of scientific facts to back up the claims of many people who promote sunlight saunas.