Traditional Dry & Infrared Sauna Vs Hot Tub (Differences, Pros, Cons)

More and more people are turning to holistic solutions to aid their health woes. Hot tubs and saunas are most well-known for their extreme abilities to put someone at ease, but they actually have a myriad of health benefits beyond just that.

Saunas and hot tubs share many health benefits including relaxation, improved cardiovascular health, burning extra calories, and helping to manage diabetes. Saunas could detoxify your body through sweat and can help with chronic pain, arthritis, and inflammation. Hot tubs are potentially great for improving sleep and easing fibromyalgia symptoms.

Read on to learn whether saunas or hot tubs are better for your specific needs!

Sauna vs hot tubs – which is better?

Both saunas and hot tubs have their own health benefits in addition to sharing many. So what’s all the hubbub about, and which one is better?

For most people, a sauna will be the better overall choice. Saunas are detoxifying and help with chronic pain, arthritis, and inflammation. Meanwhile, hot tubs treat insomnia and help with fibromyalgia. Saunas and hot tubs also have a lot of benefits in common, such as relaxation, better cardiovascular health, burning extra calories, and aiding in diabetes management.

Saunas detoxify your body from heavy metals by inducing sweat. They have potential long-term benefits for chronic pain and arthritis. They also are anti-inflammatory by having an inverse relationship to the C-protein.

Hot tubs induce better slow-wave sleep and improve a multitude of fibromyalgia symptoms.

Both saunas and hot tubs are great for relaxation. They improve cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure and increasing heart rate and burning extra calories by increasing heat shock proteins. Lastly, they both reduce glycated hemoglobin, fasting glycemia, adiposity, and body weight- all of which help with diabetes treatment.

Since they are likely to be less expensive to install and maintain, even a nice outside sauna will probably cost you less to put in than a hot tub and will add more comparative value to your home.

Now that you have the overview, it’s time to get our hands dirty and learn some more!

When to choose a sauna

Let’s talk about what would make a sauna the right fit for you.

You should choose a sauna:

  • When you’re looking for an immersive, relaxing experience
  • When you want to commit to a practice for long term health benefits
  • When you want to make new friends and be part of a community

Saunas, especially the public ones such as at your health club or gym, are a communal experience. Although the goal is often relaxation, it can also be an ideal time to catch up on the local news.

When to choose a hot tub

Some people are sauna people, some people are hot tub people, and some people are both. But what circumstances call for a hot tub?

You should choose a hot tub:

  • When you want to treat yourself to some extra relaxation
  • When you want a good night’s sleep
  • If you have fibromyalgia

How do saunas and hot tubs work?

Saunas and hot tubs both produce health benefits. Some overlap, while others are unique. 

This is because the mechanisms of action for traditional dry saunas, infrared saunas, and hot tubs are vastly different.

Let’s go over how all of these work!

Traditional dry sauna

When you think of a sauna, you probably think of a traditional dry sauna.

Traditional dry saunas range between 150 and 190 degrees°F. They work by heating the air around you. It’s a dry heat until water gets sprinkled over hot rocks. At that point, humidity can reach anywhere from 20% to 40%. An optimal session length falls between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on how hot the sauna is and how experienced you are.

In a traditional sauna, your best clothing options are: 

  • Swimsuits
  • Clean gym clothes
  • Towels

You can opt to go naked in a traditional sauna if you’re using a home sauna or a clothing-optional sauna (with a towel beneath you on the bench).

Infrared saunas

Infrared saunas work a little differently than other saunas.

Infrared saunas work by heating your body directly with infrared rays instead of heating the air around you. Temperatures range between 120 and 140°F. There is no humidity.  You can slowly work your way up to 25-45 minute sessions.

While many people like to go into traditional saunas and heat up along with them, you often have to preheat infrared saunas before entering. This typically takes between 10 and 30 minutes.

Many people opt for infrared saunas if they can’t handle – or don’t enjoy – the heat of traditional saunas. 

Hot tubs

Hot tubs are a step up above your normal hot bath.

Hot tubs create a calm and therapeutic environment with hot water and water jets. Hot tubs are usually around 100°F. The higher the water temperature is, the shorter your soak should be. If the outdoor temperature and the water temperature are both low, you can stay in as long as 45 minutes – although between 15 and 30 minutes is average.

In 1500 BC, the Greeks used baths for entertainment and bathing. Ever since then, the usage of baths, the traditions surrounding them, and their innovations have evolved.

Hot tubs were invented by Roy Jacuzzi in 1968, hence the Jacuzzi brand. Now, the term Jacuzzi is used colloquially to refer to most hot tubs, whether they are the Jacuzzi brand or not.

What benefits do saunas and hot tubs have in common?

In reality, saunas and hot tubs share a lot of benefits.

Saunas and hot tubs have many benefits in common, including:

  • Relaxation
  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Burning calories
  • Diabetes management

Let’s talk about these benefits in more detail and discover the scientific evidence to back them all up!


Saunas are known to be a relaxation force to be reckoned with – and so are hot tubs! 

Both saunas and hot tubs aid in relaxation by balancing your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

In both saunas and hot tubs, the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system fall into balance due to the heat as they try to keep your temperature regulated, according to Bruce Becker, who is a research professor and physician.

These nervous systems are associated with stress regulation.

Better cardiovascular health

Every 36 seconds, one person dies from cardiovascular disease. Yikes! Luckily, there’s something you can do to better your chances.

Both saunas and hot tubs improve cardiovascular health by raising your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure.

A 30-year prospective study found that lifelong sauna usage reduces cardiovascular-related mortality. Heat therapy may even be an option to improve cardiovascular health for patients with limited exercise capabilities.

On the other hand, hot tubs lower blood pressure and increase heart rate, even for those with treated hypertension.

Burning calories

Whether you can’t exercise or want to boost how many calories you burn, both saunas and baths are a good solution.

Both saunas and hot tubs help you burn extra calories, creating a vital solution for those who need alternatives to exercise. Saunas and hot tubs improve your cardio-metabolic health by increasing your heat shock proteins.

Passive heating and heat shock proteins improve cardio-metabolic health. Both saunas and hot tubs are forms of passive heating that create heat shock proteins.


Many people are in search of holistic ways to help treat their diabetes. The good news is that there are two easy ways to do so!

Both saunas and hot tubs are beneficial for diabetes by reducing glycated hemoglobin, fasting glycemia, adiposity, and body weight.

It is recommended to try heat therapy for 15 minutes, three times a week, for three months, to test its efficiency on your individual body.

In what ways are saunas better than hot tubs?

Let’s be honest – people are die-hard sauna fans for a reason!

Saunas are better than hot tubs if you’re looking for detoxification, if you have chronic pain or arthritis, if you want to ease inflammation, or if you want a relaxing environment.

Here’s the evidence to back up these impressive claims!

  • Detoxification The sweat that you work up in a sauna can contain heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. Nothing you want in your system!
  • Chronic pain and arthritis – A pilot study showed promising results such as a short-term improvement of stiffness and pain, as well as a trend towards potential long-term benefits.
  • Ease of inflammation – Saunas have an inverse association with the level of C-reactive protein, a blood marker of systemic inflammation.
  • Relaxing environment – Saunas have relaxing environments, sometimes even including aromatherapy. People often stretch or meditate in the sauna as well.

In what ways are hot tubs better than saunas?

As much as people love saunas, others swear by hot tubs.

Hot tubs can help treat insomnia and aid symptoms of fibromyalgia.

What does science have to say?