Steam Vs. Sauna – Which One Is Best For Weight Loss? (Benefits And Health Risks)

by Priyanka Sadhukhan , Nutritionist, CDE, Reviewer & Writer

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could lose water weight instantly before heading to a party or an event? Well, it’s time that you tried taking a long relaxing steam bath or sauna session to pamper yourself.

The difference between a sauna and a steam room is that the former is a dry session while the latter is wet. They both make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

Both steam rooms and saunas can help you lose weight (1). Find out how steam is beneficial for weight loss in this article. Read on!

Sauna Vs. Steam Room

Steam rooms are similar to saunas. They both involve using heat therapy in a small, closed room to lose water weight. The only difference is that sauna uses dry heat from heated stones, wood, or gas stoves while a steam room uses wet heat from boiling water.

A sauna uses 180° to 195° F heat with low humidity while a steam room uses 100° to 120° F heat with 100% humidity. Both steam and sauna are claimed to help increase circulation and release toxins from the body to aid weight loss (1).

But, the question remains – how does it work? Find out more in the next section.

How Do Sauna And Steam Room Help You Lose Weight?

Steam room therapy is considered to be a great detoxifier (1). Steam opens up your pores and enhances your body’s potential to eliminate toxins through sweat (2), (3). The more you sweat, the more water weight you lose (3).

1 liter of water lost through sweat leads to about 1 kg of weight loss (4).

A study published in the Scientific World Journal found that body mass loss (BML) as a result of sauna use is greater in overweight individuals than underweight and normal individuals (5).

Another study found that exercise along with sauna helps reduce body weight in obese individuals (6).

However, it is important to note that a one-time sauna or steam session is not effective for losing weight. Following a balanced diet with an exercise regimen and 10-12 sessions of sauna help improve your overall body composition (4).

A 1-hour sauna session twice a week for 7 days not only reduces body weight but also increases the metabolic rate by 25%-33% (7).

Still confused about which one to use, sauna or steam room? Read the next section to figure it out.

Steam Room Vs. Sauna For Weight Loss – Which One To Use?

Both steam room and sauna use heat therapy to relax the body, mind, and soul.

Using a steam room after exercise helps you sweat a lot, thus releasing more toxins. On the other hand, sitting in a sauna is like walking on a treadmill. The dry heat makes your heart pump harder to circulate more blood, thus creating a cardio effect.

You can choose between steam room and sauna therapy for weight loss, depending on your comfort and accessibility. Start slowly and spend 10-15 minutes in either one to lose some weight.

Now, let’s check out the other health benefits of steam room and sauna besides body weight.

Benefits Of Steam Room And Sauna

1. May Improve Cardiovascular Health

Steam therapy or frequent sauna usage may improve your cardiovascular health (8).

A study conducted in Poland found that 2 weeks of repeated sauna sessions help reduce the total cholesterol and triglyceride level. It also helps improve cholesterol levels to prevent cardiovascular disorders (9), (10).

However, further research is required to establish a direct relationship between steam/sauna sessions and improved cardiovascular health.

2. Lowers Blood Pressure

Frequent sauna sessions may help improve circulation and reduce the risk of hypertension.

Regular sauna therapy increases the heart rate and improves circulation, thereby reducing blood pressure. However, further studies are required to elucidate the effects of sauna bathing on the cardiovascular system (11).

3. May Stimulate The Immune System

Different forms of hydrotherapy, dry and wet, are effective in boosting the immune system. Sauna bath increases the number of white blood cells in the body, which stimulates the immune system (12).

A study conducted in Austria found that regular sauna bathing reduces the incidence of the common cold. However, further studies are required to prove this conclusively (13).

4. May Loosen Stiff Joints

Infrared sauna is said to be effective in loosening stiff joints. A study published in the Clinical Rheumatology found that this type of sauna helps decrease pain, stiffness, and fatigue in people with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis (14).

Another study published in the Medical Science Monitor stated that heat therapy is important to loosen joint stiffness and enhance muscle and ligament flexibility. It may also help reduce athletic injuries (15).

5. May Reduce Stress

Steam room/sauna sessions may be effective in reducing stress, depression, and anxiety.

A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that whole-body hyperthermia (heat therapy) has the potential to become a safe and rapid-acting antidepressant and stress-relief treatment with long-term therapeutic benefits (16), (17).

Sauna bathing also relaxes your mind, body, and soul to improve the symptoms of psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, and stress (17).

6. May Improve Respiratory Function

Steam inhalation clears nasal blockages and reduces headaches. A prospective controlled evaluation of steam therapy found it effective in decreasing respiratory distress in people with bronchiolitis (18).

Steam inhalation opens the mucous membrane of the nasal cavity. This helps a person take deep breaths, which provides relief from recurrent sinus symptoms (19).

7. Delayed Muscle Soreness

Steam room therapy is an excellent way to reduce muscle soreness after a workout.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine Research found that post-workout steam bath or sauna therapy increases deep tissue blood flow, thus reducing muscle soreness (20).

Though steam rooms and saunas provide many health benefits, they also come with their fair share of risks. Check them out in the next section.

Risks Of Steam Room Or Sauna Use

  • Sauna or steam therapy for more than 20 minutes causes you to sweat more. This can lead to dehydration and hyperthermia (increase in body temperature), especially in people who are overweight (21).
  • A steam room is a great site for the growth of bacteria and germs as it is hot and humid. This could lead to the spread of infections and diseases.
  • The heat of the sauna may cause cholinergic urticaria (hives on the skin caused by raised body temperature) (22).

Caution: If you are pregnant, lactating, or recovering from surgery, consult a doctor before using a sauna or steam room.

Additionally, here are some precautions you should take when using a steam room or sauna.

Precautions

  • Avoid drinking alcohol before and after a steam bath.
  • Do not extend any heat therapy for more than 20 minutes.
  • Cooldown gradually after taking a steam/sauna bath.
  • Drink adequate water after a steam/sauna session to stay hydrated.

Conclusion

Taking a steam or sauna bath after a workout is effective in reducing muscle soreness as well as relaxing your mind, body, and soul. However, it is not a permanent solution to lose weight.

Eat healthily, exercise rigorously, and lead a healthy lifestyle to stay fit the right way.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How many calories do you burn in a steam room in 15 minutes?

You can lose anywhere between 20-40 calories sitting in a steam room for 15 minutes. The number of calories you burn depends on your body weight and lifestyle.

How long should you stay inside a steam room?

You should stay for not more than 15-20 minutes inside a steam room.

How much weight loss is possible in a steam bath?

You can only lose water weight, which varies by your body water percentage, in a steam bath. You may lose 0.5-1 kg per session.

Is it OK to use a steam room every day?

Using a steam room every day is not advisable as it may lead to dehydration. Limit this heat therapy to 2-3 times a week.

Can steam reduce belly fat?

Steam room treatment can help reduce overall water weight, but not particularly belly fat.

Does steam cause hair loss?

Direct steam may loosen the hair follicles. Thus, it is always better to wear a shower cup before heading to a steam room or sauna.

Are steam rooms bad for your lungs?

Steam rooms clear out mucus and nasal blockages. But if you have a severe lung problem, it is better to consult a doctor before heading to a steam room.

Should I shower after sitting in a steam room?

Yes, you should take a shower as cooling down your body after taking a steam bath is extremely important.

22 sources

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Priyanka Sadhukhan

Priyanka is a nutritionist and a Certified Diabetes Educator. She has over 8 years of experience in nutrition and dietetics with a strong research background. She is passionate about science and how it can be applied to one’s daily lifestyle. According to her, food is the best medicine, and proper nutrition is key to achieving good health. She has also written a book on PCOS and its management for doctors and patients. When she is not working, she loves spending quality time with family and friends. She loves creating innovative, healthy recipes and endorses healthier alternatives to junk foods to promote good health.
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