Saunas may offer short-term weight loss through the loss of water weight. The heat can also raise the heart rate, which can help burn more calories. However, other weight loss methods are more effective.

However, it is best for a person to contact their doctor for advice if they wish to lose weight. Their doctor will be able to advise them on how to lose weight safely and answer any questions they might have.

This article discusses whether saunas can help a person lose weight, other health benefits and risks of saunas, and more.

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There are a few ways in which a sauna may help with temporary weight loss.

Losing water weight

The heat of the sauna can increase the skin temperature to 104ºF (40ºC) and the body temperature to 102.2ºF (39ºC). This causes enhanced blood circulation in the skin and sweating to cool the body.

The body mass loss (BML) a person may experience after a sauna session is mainly from loss of body water. The amount of water a person loses may depend on the duration of the sauna session.

This weight loss is temporary and will typically return once the person hydrates again.

Learn more about losing water weight.

Burning calories

Different types of saunas work differently. While traditional saunas heat the air around the room, infrared saunas use infrared to heat the body without heating the surrounding air.

The infrared from infrared saunas can burn 400–600 calories within 30 minutes, according to a 2017 article. The same article suggests that a person of average fitness can lose roughly 1 pound (lb) of sweat during each treatment.

A 2019 study focusing on young people assigned male at birth who were sedentary and overweight found that four sauna sessions of 10 minutes resulted in changes in physiological parameters: heart rate, energy expenditure, body mass index (BMI), and body surface area.

The study reported that participants lost around 0.65 kilograms (kg) in body fluids. In addition, people with higher body mass, body area, body fat, and muscle mass burned relatively more calories during sauna bathing.

A 2018 study had similar results. Researchers found that individuals with higher body surface area and body mass experienced more significant body mass loss from sauna-induced heat exposure.

Improved lipid profile

An older 2014 study found that sauna bathing resulted in a statistically significant decrease in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) after three weeks.

The study’s researchers concluded that its effects are similar to the results a person can obtain from moderate-intensity physical exercise.

One of the main risks of sauna bathing is dehydration. People should frequently replenish their fluids by consuming more water during sauna bathing.

Below are the symptoms of dehydration:

A person may need to call their doctor if they show any of the following symptoms:

Learn more about dehydration.

The high heat may also cause the heart to work faster. People with heart issues, such as uncontrolled blood pressure, should ask their doctors first. It is also essential to monitor their heart rates and blood pressure to reduce cardiovascular risk.

Learn more about the possible risks of saunas.

In addition to potential weight loss, there are other possible benefits of saunas.

Eliminates toxins and heavy metals

Sauna bathing increases blood circulation and sweating, which helps the body eliminate toxic elements and heavy metals, such as mercury, arsenic, and cadmium.

However, exercise is still more effective in removing heavy metals from the body than exposure to a hot environment.

Reduces morbidity and mortality

Saunas appear to reduce morbidity and mortality because they mimic the protective and physiological responses induced by exercise.

High frequency and duration of sauna bathing have strong links with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. This may be due to its ability to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.

Another study showed that a combination of high cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and frequent sauna bathing provides additional survival benefits to sauna bathing alone.

Promotes recovery

A 2023 study found that a single infrared sauna session after exercise reduced subjective muscle soreness and raised perceived recovery.

Improves heart health

A sauna session causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, providing a cardiac load that corresponds with short, moderate physical activity. These can help reduce a person’s chance of getting heart disease.

A 2018 article on Finnish sauna bathing reports that it can protect against sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.

Reduces risk of respiratory diseases

Studies suggest that sauna bathing may improve lung function. Another study found that it may reduce the risk of acute and chronic respiratory conditions such as pneumonia.

Addresses pain and fatigue

An older 2015 Japanese pilot study found that an infrared sauna effectively treated chronic fatigue syndrome.

It may also decrease fatigue in people with myalgic encephalomyelitis and pain in people with rheumatologic disorders such as ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis.

It is best for a person to contact their doctor to discuss how to safely lose weight. Their doctor will be able to advise on ways they can lose weight and what a healthy weight range is for the individual.

Tips the doctor may recommend include:

  • consuming regular meals, including breakfast
  • eating enough fruits, vegetables, and foods high in fiber
  • drinking plenty of water
  • getting enough regular exercise or physical activity
  • reducing alcohol intake where applicable

Read more tips on successfully losing weight.

Here are some frequently asked questions about saunas and weight loss.

Can saunas help you lose belly fat?

Studies show that several sauna sessions can help reduce body fat mass, BMI, and other body measurement parameters. However, it is not clear whether fat reduction targets belly fat.

Is a sauna good for weight loss?

A sauna can offer numerous health benefits and serve as an add-on to a person’s weight loss strategies.

Do you burn calories in a sauna?

A person can burn up to 600 calories from sauna bathing.

How long do you have to be in the sauna to lose weight?

A single sauna session can immediately result in temporary weight loss from losing water weight. However, most studies on the weight loss benefit of saunas involve multiple sauna sessions.

Sauna bathing can help with weight loss by burning calories and temporarily reducing water weight. It also offers numerous other health benefits, such as a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, improved lung function, and decreased fatigue.

However, people should take extra caution when using a sauna because it can lead to dehydration. People who want to lose weight should also maintain healthy eating habits and stay active. It is best to contact a doctor for advice.