An after-workout sauna is great for soothing tired muscles. But the new trend in recovery—unlike the traditional steam bath we all know and love—is a sauna that uses infrared light, the invisible (and harmless) part of sunlight that makes our skin feel warm.
Instead of heating the air, as steam does, the more efficient infrared light directly heats the body, so nearly 90% of the heat is absorbed. It also penetrates deeper than steam heat—about 1.5 inches into tissue, compared with just the outer layer of skin that a steam bath reaches.
Research backs it up, too. One study, published in Springerplus, studied the effects of infrared sauna bathing as a recovery method for men post-strength and post-endurance training. Aside from being a comfortable, relaxing experience, a little sit-and-steam (at 95 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit and light humidity of 25-35%) helped the men recuperate. The heat’s deep penetration particularly helped endurance athletes.
Not many gyms have infrared saunas, though, so check for a studio near you or reach out to local health and wellness spas.
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