Stressed out? Need to chill? Working up a sweat is said to be one of the best ways to blow off steam. But not just any old sweat will do. The latest wellness trend sweeping the country is the infrared sauna, in which the intrepid can bask in 157-degree temps in the hopes of releasing stress, toxins and pounds.
Unlike regular saunas that heat the air, infrared saunas emit infrared light waves that create heat in the body instead. The technique was employed in the mid-20th century in European and Japanese hospitals to facilitate wound healing and warm preemies.
“I was a crazy workout freak and had issues with my nervous system, my skin, sleeping at night, and someone suggested I try an infrared sauna,” explains Katie Kaps, part of a team whose goal is to put infrared saunas in some New York-based yoga studios and spas. “It was the best sweat I’ve ever had. I felt like I had just ran six miles.”
And why sweat for free when you can pay through the nose for it? At HigherDOSE, an infrared sauna center on the Bowery, rates start at $45 for 30 minutes and elsewhere average about $1 per minute. While inside, patrons can charge their phones, listen to guided meditations or music and some even have the option of watching tv. (We suggest Baywatch reruns.)
While there’s no significant data to prove one can sweat out toxins in a meaningful way, according to Dr. Catherine Forest, a clinical assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, “…people feel better after they sweat and think they look better, and that’s worth a lot.” In addition, “It may improve pulmonary function for people with asthma, and heat improves joint pain for people with arthritis,” she tells the New York Times. Additionally infrared saunas are safer than standard saunas for people with heart disease because they allow the body to warm up more gradually.
More proof they are de rigueur? Celebs like Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams and Chelsea Handler seem to be fans, as wells as scores of models. [NYT]