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Does Sitting in a Sauna Help You Lose Weight?

by
author image Sari Hardyal
Based in Dayton, Ohio, Sari Hardyal has been writing fitness, sports, entertainment and health-related articles for more than five years. Hardyal holds a Bachelor of Science in mass communication from Miami University and is pursuing her master's degree in occupational therapy and her doctorate in physical therapy. She is a certified personal trainer with the National Federation of Professional Trainers.
Does Sitting in a Sauna Help You Lose Weight?
Sweating in a sauna causes water loss. Photo Credit Viktor Čáp/iStock/Getty Images

Picture yourself enclosed in the small, dry and hot depths of a sauna. As the scent of the aromatic cedar engulfs you, you stretch your tired muscles, feeling them relax. Researchers believe the nomadic Finns enjoyed this same experience thousands of years ago. The Finns used these "sweat baths" to cleanse their bodies of unwanted toxins and feel rejuvenated. Today, people still use saunas for detoxification and relaxation, but some also try to use them for weight loss.

Water Weight Loss

Sitting in a sauna will lead to weight loss because of sweating. You will see a change on the scale upon leaving the sauna since you have lost some water. Losing water weight is not permanent, however, and the lost weight is often gained back as soon as you eat or drink something. Because sweating helps decrease weight so quickly, it is a tactic employed by boxers and wrestlers to make a specific weight class.

Burning Calories

Increasing your body heat will help you burn extra calories. Doctor of Physical Therapy Tim Jackson says the heat will cause your body to raise its metabolic rate by up to 20 percent. This jolt to your metabolism will allow you to continue to burn calories for up to several hours after spending time in the sauna. The increase in temperature forces your heart to beat at least 30 percent faster, which means your body has to burn more calories for energy.

Detoxification

Just like the Finns many years ago, people today use saunas to help detoxify the body. Sweat is composed of lymphatic fluid, so any toxins in the lymphatic system are expelled when you perspire. Jackson says the elimination of toxins, such as heavy metals, helps you burn fat more effectively because they are not hindering your metabolism any longer.

Warnings

Excessive sweating can lead to severe loss of electrolytes, which can result in kidney damage or death. Exposure to extreme heat can also cause cardiovascular emergencies or heatstroke. To keep hydrated, Dr. Harvey Simon of Harvard Men's Health Watch suggests drinking two to four glasses of water after spending time in the sauna. Dr. Simon also advises sauna users to only stay in the sauna for 15 to 20 minutes at a time and to head for the door upon feeling dizzy or ill.

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