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Steamless saunas gain popularity

April 21, 2008

Far-infrared saunas produce similar health benefits without the steam

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Traditional steam saunas have been around for thousands of years, first appearing in Finland. Today, with new technology, far-infrared saunas are gaining popularity.

Far-infrared saunas use invisible light waves on the electromagnetic spectrum which don’t need steam in order to produce health benefits similar to those of a traditional sauna.

Far-infrared waves are absorbed into the body, raising the body’s temperature, but not the surrounding area, according to Mark Raisanen from Sauntec, a local manufacturer of both traditional and far-infrared saunas.

Raisanen explained there is similar benefits to using both types of saunas, including:

• detoxifying the body of heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals, through a deep sweat;

• relaxing muscles and soothing aches and pains in muscles and joints;

• relieving stress and inducing a more relaxing and restful sleep;

• cleansing skin by removing oils under the skin, leaving cleaner pores;

• providing cardiovascular benefits similar to a two-mile jog;

• comforting effects through heat therapy;

• burning 200 to 300 calories per 20- to 30-minute session without stress on muscles and joints. Some companies will claim burning 500 to 800 calories per session, which Raisanen calls a “farce,” due to the fact there is no scientific research to back the claim.

According to Raisanen, the similarities between far-infrared and traditional saunas outweighs the differences between the two, and there is a market for both.

“Both are great for you, and people can find the one that’s best for them, with the heat they like,” he said.

The advantage of a traditional sauna is in flexibility; allowing the user to adjust the air from hot and dry to cool and wet depending on mood or the benefits one is trying to obtain.

With traditional saunas, steam provides respiratory benefits and gives the option of aromatherapy.

The steam has the ability to fight colds by relieving congestion.

“The traditional sauna is better, but the infrared helps as well,” Raisanen said.

Also with traditional saunas, there are more custom options.

“If you can dream it, we can build it,” Raisanen said.

Far-infrared saunas, are ready quickly since there is no heat-up time as the panels heat the body directly, not the air.

This is another advantage for some. Though the air does get warm, it’s a lower temperature and there is no humidity, making it easier to breathe for some.

Typically, the air in an infrared sauna is 30 to 40 degrees cooler than in a traditional sauna.

The standard temperature in a traditional sauna is 160 to 170 degrees, whereas the temperature in a far-infrared sauna is usually between 120 and 130 degrees, according to Raisanen.

Far-infrared saunas are also great for spot treatment of muscles and joints, he said. The panels provide more direct heat therapy.

A person is able to get just as deep of a sweat in the infrared sauna as the traditional, therefore benefiting from the same detoxifying and burning of calories.

“Sweat is said to be the best moisturizer for your body,” Raisanen said, referring to the effect of steam in producing healthier skin.

To receive the maximum benefits, Raisanen says, the more use, the better. On average, a person will use their sauna two to three times a week. More avid users, like himself, will use it every day, Raisanen said.

“We say both styles will make you feel better, look better, and sleep better,” he said.

Also unique to the far-infrared units is the use of color therapy. All units are equipped with the option of color-changing lights, which are known to have psychological and therapeutic effects.

The six colors include red, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, and violet.

According to Healthstart Life Products, red, which has a cheering effect, is recommended for treatment of impeded circulation, muscles and heart; yellow stimulates clarity of intellect and toxin processing and elimination; green calms the body and helps reduce swelling of joints and tissue; turquoise is the color for mental relaxation; blue has a calming effect, which is said to be helpful in treating sleep disorders, headaches, and cramps; and violet promotes awareness, consciousness, proper functioning of the lymphatic system, and neutralizes emotions.

All of Saunatec’s infrared saunas come equipped with a compact disc player, and some with a DVD player, as well.

There is an easier installation with far-infrared as well. It just plugs in, as opposed to the traditional sauna, which needs to be hard-wired, according to Raisanen.

The cost of electricity for the far-infrared sauna is about $2 to $5 a month for smaller rooms; larger rooms range from $4 to $6 a month, Raisanen estimated.

Unlike a traditional, the far-infrared should remain indoors in northern climates because the infrared heat is not strong enough to overcome the outside air temperatures, Raisanen explained.

In a cost comparison, far-infrared is 10 to 20 percent less costly than traditional saunas of the same size, according to Raisanen.

For a two person unit, far-infrared saunas range from $2,500 to $2,700 whereas a traditional sauna starts at $2,999.

Additional expenses with a traditional is in the heater, waterproofing, and the number of benches used.

For more information about traditional saunas or far-infrared saunas, check out www.finnleo.com, stop by Saunatec, which has a showroom; or call them for the nearest dealer at (320) 286-5584.

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