How Many Calories Do You Burn in a Sauna? (2023 Guide)
An interesting study out of Binghamton University, NY suggests you could lose up to 4% of body fat in 2 months with regular infrared sauna sessions.
Beyond that, there is not much research that tells us exactly how many calories are burned in a sauna. Some doctors say that you can lose up to 600 calories in a half-hour of sauna, but there's no evidence to back up these claims.
If you step on a scale right out of the sauna and notice you've lost several pounds, it is water weight, not body fat. It will come back as soon as you re-hydrate properly.
So if your goal is to lose weight and you're pulled between sitting in a sauna for 45 minutes or going for a 10-minute run—or even a brisk walk, you're probably better of choosing the latter.
Table of Content
How Many Calories Do You Burn Sitting in a Sauna?
The number of calories you burn in a sauna depends on how often you go, the time of day, your weight, age, resting heart rate, and the type of sauna you use (more on that in just a second).
According to the study conducted by Binghamton University, you can burn up to 0.5% body fat per week. Let's translate that number to weight.
A pound of body fat represents approximately 3,436 to 3,752 calories.
This means a 180 lb individual with 15% body fat would burn up to 486 calories in a week, 97 calories in 45 minutes, or 21.5 calories every 10 minutes.
These numbers assume you're jumping in the sauna 3 to 5 times per week for at least half an hour.
Biggest Factors That Affect Your Burn Rate
Duration and Frequency
The Binghamton University study took place in two phases.
In the first phase, participants did three 45-minute infrasauna sessions per week, for a total of 135 minutes of heat exposure per week.
In the second phase, participants did five 30-minute sessions per week—or 150 minutes of total heat exposure per week.
Over a period of two months, people in the second phase burned twice the calories people in the first phase did.
This suggests that session duration and frequency play an important role in determining how many calories you will burn sitting in an (infrared) sauna.
Type of Sauna
Do you burn more calories in an infrared sauna or a dry sauna—aka finish sauna?
Although dry saunas are hotter (190°F or 90°C vs 110°F or 45°C), infrared saunas do a better job of heating your body. Because of its wavelength, infrared light can penetrate your skin and heat your body at a deeper level than external heat sources.
For that reason, your body is warmer in an infrared sauna. More heat means more stress on your body.
So it could be that you burn more calories in an infrasauna than in a Finnish sauna.
But there's no conclusive data that would allow us to confirm this theory. And it is possible you burn the same number of calories in both types of saunas.
Time of Day
Binghamton University made another interesting finding when conducting their study. They observed that people who used saunas later in the day burned more calories than people who used them in the morning.
This theory was reaffirmed in the second phase of the experiment, where they had all of their participants sit in the sauna after 3 PM. This group lost twice as many calories as their peers in the first phase.
This suggests that using the sauna later in the day helps to burn more calories.
Studies show that the number of calories one burns in a sauna is a relative to their body fat.
If saunas help you burn 0.5% of body fat in a week, it means the more fat you carry, the more calories you're going to burn sitting in a sauna.
Other factors like meetabolic rate, gender, and age may also play a role but the data on the subject is too thin to draw any conclusion.
Are Saunas a Good Way to Lose Weight?
What Happens When You Sit in a Sauna?
When you sit inside a sauna, your body is doing its best to bring your body temperature back to baseline. It's going to pump more blood, dilate blood vessels, and evacuate heat through sweat.
For that, it uses energy—also known as calories. Not much, but surely more than if you were sitting on a park bench or on your couch.
Water Weight vs Body Fat
Through sweat, you lose a lot of water—about half a kilo per hour. But the minute you re-hydrate and eat some food (which contains water), the weight will be right back. And that's a good thing.
The weight you're trying to lose is that of body fat. Body fat melts when your body consumes energy—during physical effort, digestion, and even sleep.
Saunas vs Exercise
In a sauna, a 180 lb person would burn up to 21.5 calories every 10 minutes. Bear in mind that these are very approximate numbers.
In comparison, the same person would burn about 97 calories walking or 139 calories jogging during the same amount of time.
So is the sauna a good way to burn calories? The answer is no. If your goal is to lose weight, you're better off going for a walk or jog than sitting in a sauna.
Tips to Burn Calories in a Sauna Effectively and Safely
Use the Sauna Later in the Day
When you sweat, you lose water and electrolytes. In a sauna, you can lose several pounds of water in one sitting. To avoid risks of dehydration, make sure to drink plenty of water between two sauna sessions. People with weight issues are especially at risk of dehydration and should pay attention to symptoms like dry mouth, headaches, or cramps.
Keep Session Short
Prolonged heat exposure can be dangerous and should be avoided. Stay in the cabin for 15 to 20 minutes at a time at most. Listen to your body. If you start feeling dizzy, step outside, cool down for 5 minutes, then come back in. Repeat 2 to 4 times (if you feel like it).
Take Time to Cool Down
When you're done, take 10 to 15 minutes to relax and let your body cool down. Your heart rate will stay in overdrive for about 30 minutes after your last session. Most Spas have a chill zone where you can lay down and recover from the intense heat. You're encouraged to take a shower to restore your body's natural temperature. Try turning the knob all the way cold. It will feel amazing!