How To Use a Sauna Correctly (For Weight Loss, Recovery, & Relaxation)

If you’re looking to use a sauna, it’s important to know how. Lots of people use saunas incorrectly and it runs the gamut from unsanitary to not getting the results you want to dangerous. When used correctly, the sauna provides a variety of health benefits while staying safe and sanitary.

  • In order to use a sauna properly and get the most of your experience, you should:
  • be prepared
  • dress appropriately
  • select the correct temperature
  • determine the best session length
  • select the appropriate humidity level
  • decide what you will do while in the sauna
  • bring only the necessities
  • follow accepted sauna etiquette
  • have a recovery plan in place.

Keep reading to learn how to use a sauna correctly!

How to use the sauna

If you don’t know how to use the sauna, you can end up being rude or even unsafe. There are a lot of things you need to know about how to use the sauna.

Saunas are popular around the world for their relaxation and health benefits. There are lots of different things to consider when it comes to using the sauna correctly including what to wear, how to act, how to prepare, and how to recover. 

Saunas can detoxify your body, increase your metabolism, spur weight loss, and more, but, in order to reap these benefits, you need to know how to use the sauna!

And that’s what we’re going to talk about.

Choose your sauna type

First, you need to choose what kind of sauna you want to use to begin with.

Traditional dry saunas are the hottest kind of sauna and have low humidity. They work by using a heat source to heat up the air around you. Infrared saunas aren’t as hot as traditional dry saunas. They work by heating you up from the inside out using infrared rays.

Let’s talk about each type of sauna in a little more detail.

Traditional dry

Traditional dry saunas are probably the most common and well-known kind of sauna.

Traditional dry saunas are around 173°F and have less than 10% humidity. Some of their most noted benefits include improved respiratory function, relaxation, and detoxification. Dry saunas induce health benefits that support longevity.

Dry saunas use a heat source like stones or a wood-fired stove to raise the air temperature, which in turn raises your core body temperature.

People typically spend around 20 minutes inside a traditional dry sauna.

Infrared

Infrared saunas are gaining in popularity due to health and wellness trends.

Infrared saunas use infrared light to directly heat the body instead of raising the temperature of the air. They run at about 130°F and have nearly 0% humidity. Infrared saunas are more tolerable for many people because the temperature is lower.

It’s best to use an infrared sauna three times a week and stay in for about half an hour each session.

Find a place to use the sauna

Now you need to find where to use the sauna!

You can use the sauna at the gym, at a spa, or at home. Each option varies in price and convenience. 

Let’s break down all of your different options.

At the gym

Lots of people join gyms for the sole reason of using the sauna!

One place you can use the sauna is at the gym. Most gyms, including the YMCA, LA Fitness, and 24 Hour Fitness have saunas. Using the sauna post-workout has a plethora of benefits like improving cardiovascular strength and increasing hGH. They also help reduce Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness.

You can find saunas at the YMCA, at LA Fitness, at 24 Hour Fitness, and more. Most gyms have saunas as part of their offerings.

This is partially because using the sauna after working out has many benefits. Saunas can reduce the oxidative stress caused by aerobic exercise. They also improve cardiovascular strength and increase the human growth hormone, which repairs injured muscles.

Lastly, saunas decrease Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness.

At a spa

Saunas add a whole extra level of relaxation to spa treatments.

One place you can use the sauna is at the spa. This is a pricey option if you’re using it for regular sauna usage. However, if you’re looking to be pampered occasionally, using the sauna at the spa is a great idea.

Spa packages range from $150-$450 without even counting sauna add-ons or tips. Using the sauna at the spa is a great way to indulge in some relaxation, but unless you have a lot of money it’s likely not your best go-to option.

At home

There are lots of different ways to use the sauna at home.

Sauna blankets and portable saunas are your least expensive option for an at-home sauna and have all the same health benefits as traditional saunas, but they do not provide the full sauna experience. Custom at-home saunas provide the traditional sauna atmosphere without needing to leave your home, but have much more extensive budget and space requirements.

You may find that you’re more relaxed in the comfort of your own home with the ability to listen to music or watch TV using a sauna blanket or portable sauna. You also don’t have to worry about commute times or gym hours.

Others may want to get away from home life and enjoy the full atmosphere of traditional saunas.

Having a custom-built at-home sauna is the best of both worlds. You get the full sauna experience without having to deal with traffic or leaving your home.  You can build your sauna outdoors or in an apartment (rental agreement permitting, of course).

Prepare for your sauna session

Once you’ve found the sauna you want to use, you need to prepare for your session.

To prepare for your sauna session, you need to be properly hydrated, freshly showered, and in clean clothing. Don’t forget your towel!

Let’s look into why each of these is important.

Dress appropriately

It’s important to wear the right clothes to the sauna.

To dress appropriately for the sauna, you can wear a swimsuit, clean gym clothes, or a towel. Don’t wear materials that are synthetic or fit tightly. Remove all metal jewelry and your smartwatch.

The key to dressing in the sauna is comfort and breathability. It’s important to remove any metal and electronic devices due to the heat. On that note, leave your phone outside as well.

Don’t enter the sauna naked unless it’s a clothing-optional sauna. Even if it is, sit on a towel.

Select a temperature

Now you need to choose how hot you want your sauna to be.

Dry saunas get as hot as 195°F, while steam rooms get as hot as 120°F and infrared saunas reach 140°F. Generally speaking, the hotter your sauna is, the more you will sweat and the more benefits you’ll reap. If you’re a beginner you should start out with lower temperatures and work your way up.

Starting off with too hot of a temperature can turn people off from saunas altogether. Trust us- it’s better to start off slowly!

You can choose your sauna type based on how hot you like your sauna to be. If you’re one to enjoy scorchers, the dry sauna is probably for you. Meanwhile, if you like lower heat with higher humidity, opt for a steam room. Infrared saunas are the perfect middle ground.

Higher temperatures will help you start sweating faster, hence bringing on detoxification.

Determine the best session length

Now you need to decide how long you want to stay in the sauna.

Generally speaking, sauna sessions run for about 20 minutes. If you’re just starting out, start at 5 minutes and increase from there. The longer you stay in, the more benefits you reap. However, staying longer than you’re ready for can be dangerous.

Most people start to sweat around the 8-minute mark, which is when the detoxifying effects of the sauna kick in.

If you’re looking to stimulate your metabolism or induce relaxation, you should try to stay in the full 20 minutes.

However, staying in for too long can be dangerous. When you’re a beginner, start with five minutes. Even as a veteran, don’t stay in longer than 20 minutes. 

Here are some fun ways to track time in the sauna!

Choose more or less humidity

Some people love humidity, while others hate it. Where do you fall on the spectrum?

For muscle recovery, you want a higher humidity because wet heat penetrates muscles better than dry heat. For weight loss, it doesn’t matter much. As far as relaxation goes, it’s a personal preference.

Wet heat is known to penetrate muscle tissue more quickly and more deeply. Hence if you’re looking to ease sore muscles or help Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, steam rooms are probably your best option.

Decide what you will do in the sauna

With all this time on your hands, you need to figure out what you’re going to do!

Some ways to pass the time in the sauna include meditating, stretching, practicing positive affirmations, setting goals, and catching up with friends. 

Saunas are a great place to meditate because of their relaxing atmosphere. It may be difficult if there are too many people chatting, but if you go during an off-hour you’re sure to enjoy your meditation session. Some types of meditation you can use in the sauna include transcendental meditation, mindfulness meditation, and focused meditation.

Stretching helps to improve circulations (as does the sauna). Stretching helps your muscles stay healthy. Because the sauna and stretching both improve circulation, they’re a great match.

Positive affirmations motivate people to have a positive self-image. They can be done anywhere, anytime. The sauna is a good place to practice positive affirmations because you have some time on your hands.

Setting goals is vital to success. Short-, medium-, and long-term goals all give you a sense of purpose and direction. With time to think, you can evaluate what you really care about in life and adjust your goals accordingly.

Lastly, the sauna is a social place where you can catch up with some friends and have a good time (as long as you’re not too rowdy!).

Check your sauna etiquette

There’s nothing worse than sharing the sauna with someone who doesn’t know or abide by basic sauna etiquette.

Proper sauna etiquette includes not disturbing others, not shaving in the sauna, showering beforehand, changing out of dirty clothes, and not listening to loud music.

Most people go into the sauna to relax. While it’s okay to go to the sauna with friends or chitchat with the person next to you, it’s important to be mindful and use your inside voice.

Shave after the sauna, not during.

Shower and change out of your dirty clothes before you enter the sauna. Otherwise, you’ll almost definitely smell bad which would disturb others and make the experience unpleasant for both you and everyone around you.

Lastly, don’t listen to loud music. Think about when you’re sitting at the calm beach and then a loud party with music comes and sits next to you. Or when you’re enjoying a hike only to be disturbed by a hiker blasting music. It’s just as rude, if not even more so, to do it in the sauna.

Bring the necessities

There are really two main things that you need to bring to the sauna.

The most important necessities to bring to the sauna are water and a towel to sit on.

You need water to hydrate during and after your sauna session. 

Likewise, if you don’t sit on a towel you’ll burn yourself. It’s also unsanitary if you don’t use a towel because you’d be sweating directly onto the sauna bench.

Avoid bringing certain items

At the same time, there are some things that are a big no-no.

Here are some items to avoid bringing into the sauna: electronics, books, smartwatches, and metal jewelry.

Electronics and smartwatches can both overheat or break in the sauna. Books will become damp in the steam room and metal jewelry can burn you.

Follow up with a post-sauna recovery plan

So you’ve finished your sauna session. Now what?

After the sauna, it’s important to hydrate, take care of your skin, consume electrolytes, and eat a proper snack.

Because you sweat so much in the sauna, it’s vital to hydrate and consume electrolytes afterward. 

Saunas open up your pores, so skincare routines are perfect for after the sauna. So is shaving!

Saunas take a toll on your body so eating a protein-dense snack can help your body recover.