Clearlight would like to remind users that this should not be taken as direct medical advice, and you should always consult a licensed health practitioner before making any significant changes to your lifestyle or existing pain treatment regimen.
Did you know that the human lungs are made up of approximately 300 million spongy, air-filled structures known as alveoli? This intricate network is responsible for the essential task of oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange, vital for our survival.
As we age, however, our lung capacity naturally declines, so naturally as avid sauna lovers, we want going to explore the question: Are infrared saunas beneficial for your lungs?
We've previously touched on related topics such as:
Still, today in this blog post, we delve into this intriguing topic, exploring the potential implications and health benefits of infrared sauna use on lung health. It's time to breathe life into this discussion!
Understanding Airways and Lung Function
Like numerous physical attributes, lung health tends to naturally decline with age. You've likely heard older relatives lament how their robust health in their 20s waned as they entered their 60s or 80s.
That's because there are two key indicators of overall lung health, "FEV1" (Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second) and "Forced Vital Capacity," both of which are heavily impacted when you become weaker with age. These indicators measure:
FEV1 measures the amount of air you can forcefully exhale in one second after taking a deep breath.
Forced Vital Capacity represents the total amount of air you can forcefully blow out after fully inhaling. The former declines by about 1-2% per year, while the latter decreases by around 0.3%.
Yet, it's not all doom and gloom! Just like muscle strength or cardiovascular fitness, lung capacity can be trained and improved through aerobic exercises, resistance training, and specific lung exercises. If you're already managing a medical condition, enhancing your lung capacity could be particularly beneficial.
That's because the primary function of our lungs is to supply our cells with oxygen (O2) and eliminate carbon dioxide (CO2). Other metrics, such as the well-known "VO2 max" and the lesser-known "control pause," measure this capacity. These can also be improved with training, though they tend to decline with age in individuals who aren't regularly exercising.
So where do saunas fit into this picture?
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Infrared Saunas: Health Benefits and Lung Health
As we've explained, the better you can support your lung capacity and the body's ability to exchange oxygen, the lower your risk of developing lung conditions.
While most scientific studies primarily focus on individuals with existing health conditions, there's a dearth of research involving saunas and healthy athletes. Consequently, this discussion will centre around the potential impact of saunas on people with compromised lung function.
Infrared Saunas and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Several studies have highlighted the potential benefits of consistent sauna use on overall lung health and capacity. Notably, research has shown that individuals suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can experience an enhanced quality of life after regular sauna sessions.
In COPD, either fluid build-up (mucus) or inflammation in the lungs obstructs proper breathing. Studies have revealed that participants using an infrared sauna saw improvements in their overall exercise capacity.
While saunas tend to exert more pressure on your heart and blood vessel system than your lungs, this study suggests an increase in both FEV1 and forced vital capacity outcomes (key metrics mentioned earlier for lung health). These beneficial effects were evident in COPD patients who had utilised far infrared saunas.
Interestingly, despite not inducing rapid breathing, saunas appear to have a markedly positive effect on lung health. It would be beneficial to see more research conducted with healthy participants to further understand regular sauna bathing effects on chronic respiratory conditions.
Saunas and Asthma: A Breath of Fresh Air
The therapeutic use of saunas for managing asthma has been well-documented, especially in countries like Germany and Finland. Finnish researchers, in particular, have delved into the potential effects of sauna bathing on various respiratory diseases, including asthma, pneumonia, and the aforementioned COPD.
Their findings? Engaging in two to three sauna sessions per week could reduce the risk of respiratory diseases by 27% compared to one session or less per week.
Astonishingly, increasing weekly sauna usage to four or more sessions could slash the risk by a staggering 41%.
This study, which followed nearly 2,000 Finnish men aged between 42 and 61 over 25 years, is both significant and promising, not only for Finnish sauna bathing health benefits but heat therapy applications alike.
Pneumonia and Saunas: Clearing the Fog
Pneumonia, an infection that decreases your air exchange capacity and causes symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, and fever, has also been investigated in relation to sauna use. The same Finnish research group found that partaking in at least two sauna sessions per week could reduce the risk of pneumonia by 21%.
A separate study compared the effects of varying sauna frequencies on pneumonia risk, revealing that two to three sessions could cut the risk by 33%, while four or more sessions could reduce it by a remarkable 47%.
Beyond the Heat: The Indirect Ways Infrared Saunas Support Lung Health
As we delve deeper, let's consider some indirect benefits of sauna use that could significantly impact overall lung health.
Saunas Detoxification Benefits for Lung Health
Factors such as toxin exposure and excess weight can influence your risk of developing lung conditions over time.
Firstly, exposure to toxins, particularly particulate matter from vehicles and industry, can increase your risk of respiratory diseases. Occupational exposure to inhaled toxins also poses a similar threat. So, how can infrared saunas help?
Well, one of the key benefits of regular sauna sessions is enhanced detoxification. Certain toxins are preferentially expelled through your skin, and by promoting sweating, infrared saunas aid in the efficient elimination of these toxins. Although direct studies on this topic are limited, it's logical to assume that by removing toxins, you can potentially reduce your risk of respiratory diseases. We've created the following blogs on how infrared saunas support the detoxification organs:
Our team has conducted research using Clearlight Saunas to investigate their potential for weight loss. Over four months, participants who engaged in three sauna sessions per week lost up to 4% body fat.
Several theories exist for these results, including continuous removal of fattening toxins, enhanced relaxation of the nervous system post-sauna, increased levels of human growth hormone, and, of course, the aforementioned calorie burn.
The Bottom Line With Infrared Saunas and Lung Health
So, 'Are infrared saunas good for the lungs?' The answer is a resounding 'yes'. Over time, consistent sauna use can lower your risk of respiratory diseases and enhance overall lung health. For instance, the risk of conditions like pneumonia, COPD, and asthma can be mitigated.
Additional evidence suggests that saunas can alleviate other airway problems. If you're keen on improving lung and airway health, we also highly recommend reading up on salt therapy.
While more clinical studies are needed, the evidence so far suggests that regular sauna usage can indeed be beneficial for lung health.