cardio health

The cardio benefits of infrared saunas are real and offer a valid and effective form of heart exercise.

Getting motivated to exercise can be one of the hardest steps to take toward getting healthier.

When you’re not an athlete, exercising can be difficult for many reasons. Sometimes it’s a mental block. Even though you know you need to and even want to, the thought of starting an exercise program overwhelms you. Sometimes it’s easier to just go back to sleep or sit back on the couch and watch another show.

For others, it may be more serious. A debilitating health issue can make it impossible. The hallmark of heart disease is a reduced ability to exercise. Injury or fatigue can make the thought of pushing yourself to the gym or even going for a walk feel like climbing Mount Everest. Maybe you’re struggling to get out of bed because the gray cloud of depression or anxiety has dulled your desire and minimized your motivation.

Saunaing actually offers a real solution to getting your heart working without demanding physical strain. This does not mean you should skip your recommended daily spinal mobility exercises. But studies support the value of a sauna session as a form of cardiovascular exercise. We call it “passive cardio” because it allows you to sit back and relax while your heart gets pumping.

To understand this, let’s first explore WHY exercise has cardio benefits and helps the body in the first place.

How Cardio Exercise Helps the Body

The heart is literally at the heart, or core, of our health and well-being. The heart pumps blood throughout our bodies. This delivers every vital thing we need to live: oxygen, nutrients, hormones, cells, proteins, sugars, and other body chemistry. When blood flow is blocked in diseases like arteriosclerosis and peripheral artery disease, our organs begin to die and our bodies can’t function. That is why doctors recommend cardiovascular exercise to get the heart pumping.

When you are physically active, your heart learns to beat slower and stronger. This means it requires less oxygen to function well. Your arteries get more pliable, so they push your blood along better. And, your good HDL cholesterol levels go up. (1)

Cardio exercise creates good circulation which provides healthy blood and oxygen flowing through the body. This results in positive effects:

  • Lungs, heart, organs, and muscles work the way they’re supposed to,
  • White blood cells are transported around the body and help your immune system protect your body, and
  • Waste from your body is removed more effectively.

Physical activity also helps prevent diabetes. Regular exercise makes muscles more insulin-receptive, which means your body manages blood sugar levels better. And, moving your body also helps your brain. Exercise can reduce depression symptoms. It affects the brain in the same ways antidepressants do to produce serotonin. Many studies have explored a variety of other benefits. (2)

How Saunaing Creates Cardio Exercise

There are cardio benefits to a sauna. In a sauna, your body responds to the heat by increasing your heart rate, which in turn increases the amount of blood the heart pumps through your body. As we saw above, the benefits of circulation are absolutely essential to a healthy life.

A Direct Exercise Comparison

A recent study published in 2019, in Complementary Therapies in Medicine journal, compared participants’ cardiovascular effects in a sauna and on an exercise bike. Researchers concluded the increase in heart rate and blood pressure were similar for a 25-minute sauna session and a dynamic exercise test (a short, moderate workout).(3)

“A sauna session is a physical strain. Its long-term positive effects are comparable to sports activities,” states the report. The study focused on the benefits to the heart and cardiovascular system. Not on weight loss or muscle development types of exercise.

The study included 19 healthy adult volunteers and examined the reaction of blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) after one intense traditional sauna application. Comparing BP and HR in a sauna session with a dynamic exercise test, sauna bathing was equivalent to a moderate physical exercise load of about 60-100 watts.

Other Research

Research about the benefits of sauna therapy for the heart began in Japan. A type of therapy called “waon” was having a known positive effect. (4) The data suggests that saunaing may be one of the most important health habits to prevent and reverse heart disease. After treatments with waon therapy, people demonstrate a greater ability to walk (4), whether limited by heart or leg vascular issues.

In waon therapy (from the Japanese words “wa” for “soothing” and “on” for “warmth”), heart patients sit in an infrared sauna set at 60° C (140° F) for 15 minutes, followed by resting outside the sauna for 30 minutes, wrapped in towels.

Research studies of heart patients who receive this soothing warmth therapy have measured healthier arteries. Dr. Kahn explains that waon therapy has been shown to improve the function of endothelial cells that line every artery in the body resulting in better health and functionality.

According to Dr. Kahn, this type of infrared therapy may save lives. In a compelling study of 129 patients with bad heart problems, patients treated with waon therapy at least two times a week were compared to similar patients who did not get the therapy. Over five years of follow-up, the rates of re-hospitalization and death were half in the waon-treated patients compared to the others. (5)

In a 2015 study published, waon infrared sauna therapy improved exercise capacity, quality of life, and mental capacity in patients with advanced heart failure. (6)

Sit Yourself Down in a Saua and Get Your Heart Moving

It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t. You can sit down to get your cardio benefits. Research overwhelmingly supports the fact that passive cardio workouts are possible in a sauna and offer hope for getting the benefits of cardio exercise your body needs.

Sit back and relax while your heart gets pumping. Take the next step toward your health goals, no matter where you’re starting. You can feel better!


Shining light on infrared technology, Sunlighten® is the #1 choice for personalized infrared light treatments. Since 1999, we have been committed to innovating wellness products and services that empower our customers to improve their quality of life. Our patented SoloCarbon® technology rejuvenates the body by delivering the highest dose of infrared energy to the body – proven up to 99% effective. Our technological innovations are fueled by our passion to make a difference. And we are building a global community of businesses, consumers, and trusted experts to support each other along the way and make the world a healthier, happier place.

Sunlighten saunas are not a medical device as defined by Section 201(h) of the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act. Sunlighten provides general information relating to various medical conditions for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for the advice provided by a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. Please consult with your physician regarding diagnosis or treatment.

Dr. Derek Gallant has committed himself to helping others live the best life possible. After graduating from Wesleyan University, he received his Doctor of Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West where he finished 2nd in his class. He is the owner of Beverly Family Chiropractic and co-founder of The Well Family Foundation. Dr. Gallant is certified through the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA) in the Webster technique, an analysis focused on assisting pregnant women in a healthy pregnancy and natural birth. He has inspired thousands of people to take control of their own health using the Life By Design method. Apart from full time practice you can find Derek at the parks and coffee shops around Beverly with his family, training hard at the gym, or at the beach surfing.

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