As much as a sauna is used for health and wellness, it is also a go-to destination for fitness enthusiasts looking to cut down calories.
In fact, an overwhelming section of sauna goers today are those who’re working on shedding fat. And the trend spans generations, including everyone from Gen Zs to Gen Xs.
The large sauna rooms in our gyms and yoga studios speak to this fact.
However, the one question lurking in every sauna bather’s mind is, ‘how many calories does a sauna burn?’
After all, it's only a precise calorie count that can allow you to calculate how much you need to complement your fitness regimen with saunas.
So let’s dive right in and have a look at the extent of calorie reduction in a sauna.
Does the sauna burn calories?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of calorie burning, it's essential to answer an important question, which is, ‘does sauna burn calories?’
You see, it is easy to doubt the efficacy of saunas in terms of calorie or fat burning. And for obvious reasons as there's a ton of online literature seeking to debunk the idea of fat reduction with saunas.
So what’s the argument all about, and more importantly how true is the notion?
Well, a lot of health and fitness portals maintain that it isn’t the actual calories or weight that you lose in a sauna. They claim that you rather lose your body’s water weight via profuse sweating in the hot sauna ambience which makes you feel lighter for a moment.
And while it's true that you shed water weight in the sauna, the excessive heat also speeds up your metabolism, enabling both calorie burning and toxin release.
In fact, if PubMed studies are any suggestion, an exposure to sauna can increase metabolic rate by 25-33 percent. And that means calorie burning in a sauna is as good and effective as regular exercise.
In short, a sauna does burn calories and is equally beneficial as your workout regimen.
Bonus: Calorie burning in a sauna is scientifically proven!
Still wondering whether or not does a sauna burn calories?
Well, science says that it does. Here’s how:
You see, there's clear evidence that our bodies regulate a rising core temperature by burning down calories, which also applies to saunas.
Now, taking this as their research parameter, the Binghamton State University of New York conducted a two-phase study for over four months. Herein, they split the research participants into two groups, one that uses a sauna at least thrice every week and another who doesn't use a sauna at all.
The group of sauna goers were successfully able to reduce their body fat by over 4 percent. However, those who didn’t use a sauna didn’t show any signs of weight loss.
Also, both the groups didn’t change their diet or fitness regimen during the period of research.
This led the researchers to conclude that regular sauna bathing has a significant impact on our metabolism and goes a long way to reduce calories.
In short, if you’re confused about whether or not does sitting in a sauna burn calories, it certainly does according to science.
How many calories does a sauna burn exactly?
Coming back to the million dollar question of how many calories does a sauna burn, there’s no one size fits all approach. That’s because the amount of calories that you burn in a sauna depends on a lot of factors such as your body weight, health conditions, heat tolerance, and more.
Furthermore, the calorie loss count will also be determined by the length of your ideal sauna session. For instance, if you spend a longer duration in the sauna, say 40-45 minutes, then you’re likely to lose more calories.
Nevertheless, it is broadly agreed upon that by sitting in a sauna you’ll almost double the calorie burning than you’d while sitting in regular room temperature.
The heat in a sauna increases your metabolism rate by about two times. As such, your body starts to burn calories stored in the form of fat at a much faster pace without any physical activity.
Bonus: You can count calories burned in sauna. Here’s how:
Did you know that you can measure the exact amount of calories that you burn in a sauna?
Yes, it’s possible.
And complicated as it might sound, measuring the calorie reduction is actually very straightforward, all you’ve got to do is factor in the MET values correctly.
To start with, you can factor in the MET value of sitting, which typically ranges between 1.3 and 1.8. This means that you can lose around 1.3 - 1.8 calories per 2.2 lbs of your body weight while sitting.
Now, you can multiply your total body weight to the MET value of sitting to derive an hourly rate of calorie burning. Further, you can divide this number by 60 to get a precise number of calories you burn every minute
Finally, you can take the number of calories you burn every minute and multiply it with the total number of minutes in your sauna session. This way, you can accurately calculate the number of calories that you burn in every sauna session.
That’s simple, isn’t it?
You might also want to read - Himalayan Salt Sauna: 5 Reasons To Build One In 2023.
Calories burned in a sauna: FAQs
Does sitting in a sauna burn calories and fat?
Yes, it does.
As we discussed earlier, it is scientifically proven that you can burn a lot of calories by simply sitting in the sauna.
However, the extent of calories burned depends on a lot of factors, not the least of which is determined by the kind of sauna you use.
For instance, a traditional sauna, notwithstanding whether it uses wood burning or electric sauna heaters, has its limitations when it comes to calorie burning. That’s because you can’t rely on these saunas to burn excessive body fat.
Nevertheless, an infrared sauna has been found to be very effective for fat burning. And for obvious reasons as the infrared heat penetrates deep into your skin, aiding calorie burning unlike other saunas.
Does infrared sauna burn calories?
Yes, an infrared sauna does burn calories.
In fact, numerous studies suggest that an infrared sauna burns more calories than a traditional sauna.
However, talking about the number of calories that an infrared sauna burns, there’s no consensus about it.
And such is the difference of opinion that while some online sources suggest you lose over 500 calories in every 30-minute session, others suggest you don’t lose more than 50 calories.
So how many calories do you actually lose?
Well, here’s what studies suggest:
400 calories says one study
In this PubMed study, participants had a 40 minute sauna session each with a 5-minute cooldown period every 10 minutes. And every participant lost anywhere from 73 and 134 calories every 10 minutes, bringing the average to 100 calories.
Interestingly, the researchers and other experts suggested that a cooldown period went a long way to increase the amount of calories burned.
495 to 1125 calories says another study
A study published in PubMed and conducted on athletes found that the participants lost between 495 and 1125 calories in a 60-minute sauna session divided into three sittings.
Herein, the infrared sauna temperature was maintained at close to 160 degrees fahrenheit and the overall session had three cooldown periods every 20 minutes.
Also, unlike other studies, the participants here were all athletes with a better endurance capability than non-athletes.
Note: We suggest you not to try any of these methods by yourself as it might cause skin burns and dehydration to name a few.
How long to stay in a sauna for calorie burning?
There’s no predetermined sauna session duration for calorie burning. That’s because the extent of calories burnt depends on how long you stay in the sauna.
However, if you’re just starting out with saunas, we suggest you not spend more than 20 minutes and slowly take it up to 30 minutes over a period of time.
More importantly, you should hydrate yourself well and be on the lookout for any imminent signs of dehydration such as headache and nausea.
You might also want to read - The Dos And Don'ts Of Installing A Sauna.
As you can see, although the question as to how many calories does a sauna burn has no definite answer, there are ways you can derive an approximate number.
Also, it goes without saying that the amount of fat you lose in a typical sauna session is much higher than the calorie loss.
Have queries as to how best you can amplify calorie burning or simply looking for sauna solutions?
You can get in touch with us!
At Steam & Sauna Experts, we’re South Florida’s most seasoned sauna experts with an industry experience spanning two decades. And we also have one of the largest sauna inventories from market leaders such as Mr. Steam and Amerec, among others.
Simply put, we’ve got all your sauna related queries and needs covered under one roof.