When you envision a sauna, you probably think about a health club steam room, but you can get the same basic benefits from types of saunas, including a home sauna blanket. Is one of these better than the other?
The difference between a sauna blanket and a steam room comes down to portability and humidity. Sauna blankets use infrared light to heat your body from the inside out while steam rooms use ambient heat and extreme humidity. Both rely on thermotherapy to increase heart rate and promote a detoxifying sweat response, both key benefits to sauna use.
Keep reading to learn about the key benefits and differences between sauna blankets and steam rooms, plus what features might make one better for you.
Differences between a sauna blanket and a steam room
A sauna blanket and a steam room are both designed to work up a sweat. They use heat to improve relaxation and the body’s overall health. Through heat, sauna blankets and steam rooms boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, release toxins from the body, and improve sleep.
Though there are many aspects that connect sauna blankets and steam rooms, there are a few key differences:
- Respiratory benefits
- Muscle soreness relief
|Sauna Blanket||Steam Room|
|Cost||$150-500||$3,000-5,000 (in-home installation) or as part of monthly healthy club membership|
|Muscle soreness relief||Yes; works directly on the muscles to provide relief||Yes; use after a workout can prevent muscle soreness onset|
|Ideal temperature||120°F with 5% humidity||110-115°F with up to 100% humidity|
|Average session length||35-40 minutes||20 minutes|
Let’s explore what makes each of these unique.
Depending on your needs, cost is probably one of the primary considerations when choosing between a sauna blanket and a steam room.
A single sauna blanket is likely to cost between $150 and $500, depending on the brand you choose. Your gym or health club may include access to a steam room, but an in-home installation can run $3,000-5,000.
There are, of course, other considerations to keep in mind when determining how cost-effective your choice is in the long term. For example, a sauna blanket will likely require additional purchases, including an insert to keep it clean and hygienic. Installing a steam room will require more maintenance and longevity and can add luxury value to your home.
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Aside from the cost, portability is another major consideration when choosing the type of sauna you prefer.
A sauna blanket is a portable and compact version of an infrared sauna and is made specifically for convenience. A steam room, however, is built in and will not travel, although you may be able to find access to one while you’re traveling if your health club franchise reciprocates memberships with other locations.
A sauna blanket is easy to store and does not take up much space at all when not in use. They also travel well and can be a helpful way to maintain health and reduce anxiety while traveling.
Of the two, only steam rooms offer respiratory benefits.
The hot, humid air of a steam room can reduce congestion and thin mucus, making it easier to breathe when you’re not at your best due to sickness or allergies.
A sauna blanket, however, does not act on the air around the user and provides no significant respiratory benefits.
Muscle soreness relief
Alleviation of muscle soreness and overall relaxation is probably the most popular reason people choose to visit the sauna. Does a steam room or sauna blanket provide the same relief?
Both the sauna blanket and steam room can act on muscle soreness, although they do it in different ways and at different stages. The heat from a sauna blanket will increase blood flow, relieving muscle tension. A steam room, however, can prevent muscle soreness when visited after an intense workout.
A sauna blanket uses infrared light to warm the body. This increases blood flow. Increased blood flow softens muscles and joints, which greatly benefits the body, including repairing muscles and relieving muscle tension.
Moist heat – such as that from a steam room – applied right after a fitness routine has been shown to improve muscle soreness. This wet heat is also better at penetrating deep tissue layers and reducing pain than dry heat.
Depending on your specific preferences, you may prefer the overall temperature of the sauna blanket or steam room.
The body’s temperature rises more slowly with sauna blankets compared to steam rooms which allows for longer immersion in the heat. With a sauna blanket, the user’s head can remain outside the blanket at room temperature, giving the body a break when the temperature starts to rise.
It’s also possible that you’d prefer to sweat through a “dry” heat rather than a “wet” one.
The amount of time you have to devote to your session can also be a deciding factor in your choice.
Once there is tolerance, a sauna blanket can be used for up to 45 minutes each day. This is significantly longer than the recommended time for using a steam room, around 20 minutes.
Sauna blanket vs steam room – which is better?
Both the sauna blanket and steam room have their selling points, but is one objectively better than the other?
A sauna blanket is ideal for those who want to enjoy their sauna in the privacy of their own home without spending a lot of money. A steam room is a better choice for those who want an immersive experience or need respiratory relief.
A sauna blanket is perfect for people who can’t tolerate the combination of heat and humidity in a steam room. Sauna blankets allow users to adjust the heat to a temperature that suits their comfort. And they fold up and be tucked away anywhere.
Steam rooms are heated by water vapor and are a better choice for people who benefit from humid conditions. If someone is suffering from a cold, the steam can moisturize the lungs and make breathing easier. It also hydrates the skin, giving it a healthy glow.
Key characteristics of a steam room
Steam rooms date back to the Roman use of steam baths. For hundreds of years, people have appreciated the benefits steam rooms offer. They are found all over the world in different forms. Their popularity has continued to grow in the United States and can be found in rustic and luxury versions.
The modern steam room works by electrically pumping the vapor of boiling water into a small, contained space. It is one of the cooler types of heat therapy with a temperature range typically from 110 to 120°F. They are used to aid health and wellness by improving circulation, lowering blood pressure, hydrating skin, clearing congestion, and reducing stress.
They are frequently used by athletes to provide muscle soreness relief after a workout.
Potential benefits of a steam room
As we’ve established, the steam room is a great place to relax, but it also has other advantages.
The most common benefits of a steam room are:
- Opens the airways to enhance breathing during sickness
- Improves heart health through increased circulation and lower blood pressure
- Relieves tension, including headaches, tight joints, and other inflammatory responses
- Detoxifies and rids the body of chemicals
If you’re looking for any of these effects, the steam room might be right for you!
Does a steam room help reduce belly fat?
Steam rooms can result in weight loss, but it will be mostly water weight.
When steam rooms raise the body’s temperature and the body sweats, that sweat is getting rid of excess water. The loss of water weight might lower the number on the scale but since fat cells have very little water, steam rooms do not reduce belly fat.
Additionally, there is no such thing as targeted weight loss. That means you must lose weight all over your body to lose belly fat.
How many calories do you burn in a steam room for 15 minutes?
The body works hard to sweat. The heart beats faster and the breathing rate increases.
In addition to water weight loss, this exertion will help burn around 25 calories in a 15-minute session for a 150-pound person.
This number will change depending on a person’s weight and length of time spent in a steam room.
How long should you sit in a steam room for weight loss?
Sitting in a steam room for more than 20 minutes at a time is not recommended.
A person could sit in a steam room for 20 minutes per day and burn around 30 calories per session. Let’s do the math: steaming for 20 minutes, twice per day, for one week, would result in burning just under 500 calories per week.
In a study on body mass index (BMI) and body mass loss (BML) during sauna use, people with a lower BMI also had a lower BML. Most of the weight loss in the higher BMI participants was determined to be water weight loss.
Who shouldn’t use a steam room?
While they have many benefits, several groups of people should avoid steam rooms.
Steam rooms might not be safe for people who:
- Have chronic heart conditions
- Are pregnant
- Are under the influence of alcohol
- Have a seizure disorder
- Have other serious chronic conditions and have not consulted their physician
If you’re unsure if a steam room is safe for use, consult your physician before starting.
Key characteristics of a sauna blanket
Sauna blankets are the newest trend in thermotherapy and are popular for personal use at home or on the go. They’re less expensive and require less setup and maintenance than a home steam room.
The blanket is designed in the same way as a sleeping bag and works by using infrared heat to warm up the air around the body and induce sweating. Temperatures on a sauna blanket range from 68-158°F.
Want to know how to use a sauna blanket? Check out this article.
Potential benefits of a sauna blanket
Sauna blankets are fairly new and are a great way to enjoy the positive affects of a sauna session without leaving your own home.
There are a couple of unique benefits of a sauna blanket:
- Sauna blanket use can be personalized by adding music and aromas for a deeply relaxing experience
- They are easy to transport and pack up after use
- Share most of the same health and wellness benefits as a steam room
If you want access to the health benefits of a sauna without worrying about fitting gym visits into your schedule, the sauna blanket might be right for you.
Can I use a sauna blanket every day?
If the sauna blanket is so convenient, is it safe to just slip into it every day?
A sauna blanket can be used daily. However, it’s recommended to begin at 15-20 minutes of use once or twice a week before gradually building up to longer 45-60 sessions more frequently. Short durations will help prevent dehydration and increase sessions over time, allowing the body to develop a tolerance for sweating.
The human body is a good guide and will make it known what it can tolerate.
What are the disadvantages of a sauna blanket?
Sauna blankets are something of a revolution in home saunaing, but they’re not perfect by any means.
Some disadvantages of sauna blankets include:
- Dehydration – Sauna blankets can cause dehydration. It’s important to keep water close by that you can easily sip from a straw.
- Hygiene – They can also be difficult to clean if there is excessive sweating. Try wearing light, loose-fitting clothing to allow the body to breathe while sweating. This might lessen the need for persistent sanitizing.
Can I use a sauna blanket and steam room the same day?
A sauna blanket and steam can be used for combined thermotherapy and it’s great to have a variety of options.
There’s no harm in using the two cooperatively on the same day, but taking breaks between sessions is key. Make sure to drink water to prevent dehydration.
Using a steam room after using a sauna blanket will provide the added benefits of better breathing and hydrating skin.
Sauna blanket vs. steam room: What to consider before purchase
Before buying a sauna blanket or home steam room there are a few things to keep in mind.
A sauna blanket will offer more portability and the opportunity to tailor the session. A steam room has some extra benefits for the respiratory system and specializes in detoxification.
Consider whether there’s a preference for a personalized experience and convenience or whether the goal is to capitalize on the whole spectrum of health benefits.