Does Sauna Help You Burn Calories?

Over 13 000 people in the US search for this every month. So does sitting in the sauna burn calories? Here's the short answer: Yes sitting in the sauna makes your body burn calories at around 1.5 times the normal rate. However, thinking that you can lose weight by just sitting in the sauna would be absurd. The weight you lose in the sauna is mostly water that you sweat out of your body and it's important to stay hydrated and replace it during the sauna session. The biggest benefits of regularly going to the sauna are far and beyond losing weight.


What Does Sauna Actually Do For Your Body

So where is all this talk about losing calories in the sauna coming from? What actually happens in your body that could cause you to burn more calories? Is there any evidence that supports this claim?


All of this has something to do with metabolism, heart rate, and heat. Here's the deal:


  1. When you go to the sauna, your body temperature is going to start raising.
  2. Higher body temperature can cause your heart rate to increase, which burns more calories.
  3. Metabolism is shown to increase during a sauna session. Metabolism is a set of chemical reactions in your body for example when converting food into energy.
  4. Because of steps 1-3 your body needs to start cooling itself down. Your body cools itself down by sweating.


You will consume a few extra calories when your internal functions are firing faster. This is why sitting in the sauna consumes more calories than sitting on the couch.


There are much larger benefits in sauna bathing than weight loss. We have our own article on the health benefits of the sauna which you can read here. In short, regular sauna bathing improves sleep, enhances recovery, improves your immune functions, improves cardiovascular health and much more. But if you plan on buying a sauna only to lose weight, I would skip the purchase.


Which Sauna Type Burns Most Calories

As we concluded above, the sauna bathing burns calories by raising your body temperature, heart rate and by accelerating metabolism. So the sauna type that has the biggest impact on your calorie consumption is the one that does these three most effectively.


In theory, Infrared saunas burn the most calories. Infrared sauna heaters emit electromagnetic radiation with long lengthy waves straight to your body. This causes the biggest speed-up in your metabolism, at least according to the studies funded by infrared sauna sellers.


Traditional saunas on the other hand make yous sweat more, which might be better for removing toxins from your body.


In the end, we suggest you don't select your sauna type based on how many calories you're going to burn in a sauna. That is because the difference between sitting in traditional, steam, or infrared sauna has not been researched enough in order to tell the difference between each one when it comes to helping you lose weight.

Sauna vs Exercise

There was a two-phase study done by Binghamton University in New York on losing fat with sauna use. In this study, Group A used a sauna three times a week for eight weeks, while Group B didn't go to the sauna at all. Group A managed to reduce their body fat index by 4% while there was no change in Group B.


Even though exercise and sauna use achieve similar reactions in the body, bathing in the warm is not a reason to avoid exercising. It can be a good add-on for active people, but by no means it provides similar results as frequent exercise.

Risk of Dehydration

Your body loses a lot of liquids while you sit in the sauna. 99% of your sweat is water while there are also some toxins that you sweat out. If you sit 30 minutes in a sauna your body loses 0.5-2 liters of water. This is why it's super important to hydrate during and after you have used a sauna. It's important to remember that all the weight sauna helps you lose is water weight.


Losing the water weight will cause you to become dehydrated. Dehydration can cause some serious problems like dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and rapid breathing and in some extreme cases, it can cause you to faint.


Remember to drink plenty of water during and after the sauna use!


How Many Calories

It's good to end this article with some exact numbers on calorie burn. According to sauna manufacturers, you can expect to burn 1.5 and 2 x the number of calories you normally burn by sitting on the sofa. So in a 30-minute sauna session, this means 62-200 calories depending on your size, weight, and age. Eventhough soime sources claim that 30-minute sauna session burns even 300 to 1000 calories, we simply say this is not true.


Sauna use is a great way to relax and become healthier. Remember to consult your doctor if you have any medical conditions before using a sauna.

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