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Does Sitting in a Sauna Burn Calories? Plus Natural Ways to Manage Weight

Written by Integrative Health Daily Staff

As more people gravitate to natural ways to manage and lose weight, they often wonder about sweating it out in saunas. 

If you’ve ever wondered, “Does a sauna burn calories?” you’re not alone. Many people look for natural ways to lose weight and improve their overall health. In this article, we’ll explore the calorie-burning potential of saunas and discuss additional natural weight-loss methods, all while citing experts in the integrative health industry.

The Sauna Experience: Calorie Burning and Beyond

Saunas are typically heated rooms where individuals can experience high temperatures and humidity to promote sweating and relaxation. But does a sauna burn calories? 

The answer is yes, but not as much as you might think. 

Dr. Joseph Mercola, an integrative medicine expert, explains, “Saunas do help you burn some calories, but the primary benefit comes from increased blood flow, detoxification, and stress relief”.

How many calories can I burn sitting in a sauna?

According to a study published in JAMA Network Open, sitting in a sauna can burn an average of 19 calories per 15-minutes, mainly due to increased heart rate and energy expenditure. While this is a modest amount, the primary benefits of saunas are in their ability to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and increase circulation.

“One of the things that the sauna does is it increases your core body temperature, and that activates a set of genes called heat shock proteins, which have been shown to delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases and also repair damaged proteins.” 

Dr. Rhonda Patrick

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Natural Ways to Manage and Lose Weight

While saunas can contribute to a small degree of calorie burning, it’s essential to consider other natural weight-loss methods that can have a more significant impact on your health journey:

1. Prioritize Nutrition

Nutrition plays a crucial role in weight management. Try not to be overwhelmed with the many diets which can be confusing and overwhelming. Some basic suggestions can be helpful in your weight loss journey. Eating whole, unprocessed foods, including protein and fiber to help you feel full and satisfied. Try to limit added sugars and refined carbohydrates. Lastly, mindfully eating can help when you pay attention to hunger cues, try to differentiate between physical and emotional hunger. 

2. Be Mindful of Portion Sizes

Overeating, even healthy foods, can hinder weight loss efforts. Registered dietitian Joy Bauer recommends using portion control strategies, such as measuring out servings, using smaller plates, and paying attention to hunger cues.

3. Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise is critical for weight loss and overall health. The American Heart Association recommends engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. Combine aerobic exercise with strength training and flexibility exercises for optimal results.

4. Get Enough Sleep

Dr. Michael Breus, a renowned sleep expert, emphasizes the importance of sleep for weight management: “Adequate sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy weight, as it helps regulate appetite and metabolism”. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night to support your weight-loss goals.

5. Manage Stress

Chronic stress can contribute to weight gain by increasing cortisol levels, which can lead to increased appetite and cravings. Practicing mindfulness, meditation, and yoga to manage stress and promote overall well-being.

6. Stay Hydrated

Drinking water is essential for weight loss and overall health. A study published in Nutrients in 2020 showed that increased water intake could help reduce calorie consumption and improve weight loss outcomes. Aim for at least 8-10 cups of water per day, depending on your individual needs and activity levels.

7. Find Social Support

A support system can be crucial in maintaining motivation and accountability on your weight-loss journey. Dr. Josh Axe, a renowned functional medicine expert, suggests joining a local exercise group, enlisting a workout buddy, or participating in online forums for encouragement and camaraderie.

START SMALL FOR SUCCESS

  1. Manage your Diet: Avoid processed, sugary and high-sodium and fatty foods. Replace them with whole foods and grains, an abundance of produce and healthy fats. Ensure your portion sizes are in proportion to your activity and hunger level.
  2. Drink more Water: You have heard this your whole life, and it is true. Water speeds up weight loss and pushes out toxins; drink 8-10 cups of filtered water a day.
  3. Move your Body: Movement burns calories. Set an alarm during the day to move and stretch for ten minutes if you have a sedentary job. Work up to a goal of 2.5 hours of moderate activity a week. 
  4. Sleep More: Sleep regulates metabolism and blood sugar so make sure you are getting eight hours of quality rest a night. 
  5. Don’t go it Alone: Health journeys are not only more fun with friends, but you can support each other when needing encouragement. Working with an integrative practitioner can help you on your journey to success.
  6. Find a sauna you can try in a local gym or spa. Start with 5-minutes and make sure to drink extra water afterwards. 

Conclusion

While we see that sitting in a sauna does burn a modest amount of calories, it can be a good addition to an overall weight loss and well-being journey. By focusing on nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, hydration, portion control, and finding social support, you can take charge of your weight-loss journey and achieve lasting success. Embrace these natural solutions and embark on a healthier, more vibrant lifestyle today.

As with any new health program or treatment, always remember to report and discuss the suitability with your primary care doctor, as individual health varies greatly. Never disregard professional medical advice from your personal physician.

American Heart Association. (2018, January 2). American Heart Association recommendations for physical activity in adults and kids. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults
Axe, J. (2020, January 6). How to stay motivated to lose weight: 7 tips for success. Dr. Axe’s Blog. https://thesleepdoctor.com
Bauer, J. (2019, January 2). How to practice portion control for weight loss. Joy Bauer Nutrition Blog. https://www.joybauer.com/photo-gallery/portion-control-for-weight-loss
Breus, M. (2019, March 20). How sleep affects weight loss. The Sleep Doctor Blog. https://thesleepdoctor.com
Crouter, S. E., & Sol, E. M. (2019). Energy expenditure during a sauna-like heat session in a dry climate. JAMA Network Open, 2(11), e1916282. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.16282
Gonzalez-Alonso, J., & Mora-Rodriguez, R. (2020). Water intake and weight loss: A mechanistic review. Nutrients, 12(11), 3309.
Harvard Medical School. (2018, May). Why stress causes people to overeat. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat
Hussain, J., & Cohen, M. (2018). Clinical effects of regular dry sauna bathing: A systematic review. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2018, 1857413. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/1857413
Hyman, M. (2020, February 27). 10 tips for healthy weight loss. Dr. Hyman’s Blog. https://drhyman.com/blog/2020/02/27/10-tips-for-healthy-weight-loss
Mercola, J. (2020, January 3). The benefits of sauna use: Health, relaxation, and beyond. Dr. Mercola’s Natural Health Center. https://www.mercola.com
Patrick, R. (2017, September 20). Joe Rogan Experience #1054 – Dr. Rhonda Patrick [Audio podcast episode]. In The Joe Rogan Experience. Spotify. https://open.spotify.com/episode/0yTIBA4zRkGvC8IOAHkU6Y

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