By Jenna Greenfield MD

There is incredible evidence that heat therapy, as in an infrared sauna, has some of the same benefits as exercise on our muscles and metabolism, and that relaxing in an infrared sauna actually increases muscle strength, endurance, and weight loss!  When our muscles are heated, they produce proteins called heat shock proteins.  These proteins are also produced when we exercise, and in fact may be responsible for the benefits of exercise (1). 

Infrared Sauna for Increased Muscle Strength

In a study on the effect of heat on muscle strength, subjects were exposed to about 120 degrees F for one hour daily for 11 days.  They did not train during this time.  Incredibly, after 11 days of passive heating, strength increased by 17% (2)!  In another study, local heat was applied to the thigh muscle of humans for 8 hours a day, 4 days a week, for 10 weeks.  They did no training or exercise during the 10 weeks.  At the end of the 10 weeks, maximum forced knee extension increased 5.8%.  The mean muscle cell cross sectional area of the vastus lateralus (thigh muscle) increased by 8.3% (3).  These incredible studies show that heating the muscles increases muscle mass and strength without any exercise training.  

Infrared Sauna for Weight Loss

Passive heat also results in weight and fat loss, even without exercise, and combining heat with exercise can double fat loss!  A study using mice found that passive heat resulted in the same amount of fat loss as did treadmill running.  Mice were either heated for 30 minutes, 5 times a week, or run on a treadmill for 30 minutes, 5 times a week, or both.  The mice that were exercised, and the mice that were passively heated, lost the same amount of body fat, about 40% of their total body fat mass.  The group that was both heated and exercised lost 72% of their total body fat mass (4)!  

Infrared Sauna for Increased Metabolism

Mitochondria are organelles in our cells that are responsible for energy production, and determine our basal metabolism, or the amount of calories we burn at rest.  Exercise and passive heat increased muscle mitochondria proteins and activity to a very similar degree, and the effects of the two combined were additive.  Mitochondrial activity increased 31% with exercise training alone, 35% with heat therapy alone, and 62% with exercise and heat therapy combined (4).

Another incredible study showed that mice with elevated levels of heat shock proteins did not gain weight, even when consuming a high fat, high calorie diet.  After 10 weeks on this diet, normal mice on the high fat diet had a weight gain of about 30% of their body weight, and developed insulin resistance (pre-diabetes).  Mice with elevated heat shock proteins did not gain weight, and did not become insulin resistant.  They were found to have about 50% more mitochondria in their muscle compared to normal mice, and their basal metabolic rate, the amount of calories they burned at rest, was over twice that of normal mice (5)!

High Tech Health Far Infrared Sauna

Incredibly, relaxing in your High Tech Health far infrared sauna for 30 minutes has some of the same benefits of a strenuous 30 minute workout!  And combining sauna therapy with exercise can double your results!  Call one of our knowledgable product specialists today to learn more!

303-413-8500

or

800-794-5355

Transcend TR-2 Far Infrared Sauna in a gym
High Tech Health Far Infrared Sauna

References

  1. Response of heat shock protein 72 to repeated bouts of hyperthermia in rat skeletal muscle. Lee J, Himori K, Tatebayashi D, Abe M, Yamada T. Physiol Res. 2015;64(6):935-8
  2. Passive heat acclimation improves skeletal muscle contractility in humans. Racinais S, Wilson MG, Périard JD. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2017 Jan 1;312(1):R101-R107
  3. Responses of muscle mass, strength and gene transcripts to long-term heat stress in healthy human subjects. Goto K, Oda H, Kondo H, Igaki M, Suzuki A, Tsuchiya S, Murase T, Hase T, Fujiya H, Matsumoto I, Naito H, Sugiura T, Ohira Y, Yoshioka T. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Jan;111(1):17-27
  4. Postexercise whole body heat stress additively enhances endurance training-induced mitochondrial adaptations in mouse skeletal muscle Yuki Tamura, Yutaka Matsunaga, Hiroyuki Masuda, Yumiko Takahashi, Yuki Takahashi, Shin Terada, Daisuke Hoshino, and Hideo Hatta American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 2014 307:7, R931-R943
  5. Activating HSP72 in Rodent Skeletal Muscle Increases Mitochondrial Number and Oxidative Capacity and Decreases Insulin Resistance. Henstridge DC, Bruce CR, Drew BG, Tory K, Kolonics A, Estevez E, Chung J, Watson N, Gardner T, Lee-Young RS, Connor T, Watt MJ, Carpenter K, Hargreaves M, McGee SL, Hevener AL, Febbraio MA. Diabetes. 2014 May 15; 63(6): 1881-1894