Do saunas help boost immune system?

May 30 | Tom Harvey

There are plenty of benefits that come with regular sauna bathing, including reduced hypertension, anti aging, and less inflammation. One of the lesser commonly known benefits is the improvement of our immune systems.

Sitting in a sauna can improve your immune system by giving you an artificial fever. Sounds counter-productive, but a fever actually spurs the immune system into working to fight off the raised temperature. It will release white blood cells to do this, as well as antibodies and other fighting agents, to fight off bacteria and viruses in your body.

As the fever returns to normal after your sauna session, your immune system will settle down. However, while this process might not have fought off any real illnesses, it will have exercised your immune system, strengthening it for the next time.

Pretty cool, right?

How many saunas promote boosting the immune system?

Most saunas promote boosting immunity, as the increased temperature that all saunas offer will mimic the response of a fever within your body. Infrared saunas are excellent for people who don’t like the feeling of being too warm, as the external temperature doesn’t increase as much as that of a traditional sauna.

However, traditional saunas may increase your core body temperature quicker than infrared due to the environmental heat, which can kick your immune system into gear faster.

Infrared saunas can also indirectly boost your immune system through stress relief and improved sleep. More people find infrared saunas to be more relaxing due to the lower external heat temperature, and the red light can help improve sleep.

What are some of the potential immune system boosting benefits of sauna use?

Can exercise your immune system’s response time

Using saunas increases your body temperature to kick your immune system into gear to fight off any illness found in the body. The more you exercise your immune system, the quicker its response time can become, so the next time you get a common cold and flu virus, your recovery time may be shorter.

Helps with weight regulation

Infrared saunas can offer a small cardiovascular workout, so continuous use can help you see a change in your weight management and better results from exercise and diet routines. Maintaining a healthy weight can support your immune system, so the sauna can indirectly improve your immune system, too.

May help with more restful sleep

Many people believe a good night’s sleep is the best medicine for viral and bacterial infections, so keeping your body relaxed can help improve your recovery time. Saunas have been shown to improve relaxation and even sleep cycles, which can work alongside your strengthened immune system to get you feeling better as soon as possible.

Can help with stress relief

Saunas have been shown to support stress relief and make you feel more relaxed thanks to the heat and, in infrared saunas, light. The lower environment temperatures within infrared saunas generally create a more pleasant experience for users, making the entire session more relaxing. Since your immune system can be directly disrupted by the endocrine response to stress, the more relaxed you can remain, the better your immune system will be able to respond to illness.

Scientific evidence and findings on the impact saunas have on boosting the immune system

There have been a few studies completed in regard to sauna use and immune system function. One study used a control group and a sauna group to determine whether volunteers would see a reduction in common colds after six months of regular sauna sessions. After six months, it was recorded that the sauna group saw a significant drop in common cold and flu viruses during the last three months of the study, indicating that regular immune system exercise through sauna bathing may improve its functionality after three months.

The study concluded that it would need further research to prove these initial findings, however.

Another study indicated that regular sauna use could be associated with a lower risk of acute and chronic respiratory conditions in the middle-aged Caucasian population, although this too would need further research to back it up.

Are there any potential risks or precautions to consider?

Some people may choose to use a sauna session to improve their immune system’s ability to fight off infection while they’re ill. This might be dangerous if you already have a fever, as increasing the body temperature on top of a fever can increase your risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion. People with illnesses involving dizziness and extreme fatigue should also avoid using the sauna until they’re feeling better.

Another risk is using the sauna for too long. To boost your immune system you need to increase your body temperature considerably, and some people might choose to stay in the sauna longer than necessary to achieve this. However, this can increase the risk of heat exhaustion and dehydration, so keep to the 15 minute recommendation.

How often should you consider using a sauna to boost the immune system?

To boost your immune system through sauna sessions, you should aim to regularly find time to exercise it. Most recommend at least 3 sessions per week, each lasting at least 15 minutes. You need to be able to leave your body temperature to rise enough for the immune system to detect a fever, which is why studies often reference 15 minutes as the optimal amount of time for this.

There are still benefits to enjoy through shorter sauna sessions, so take your time working up to 15 minutes per day.

Our in-house experts’ tips for using a sauna to help with boosting the immune system

Tom Harvey, co-founder and co-director of TH7 says:

Final thoughts

There is some research to suggest regular sauna use can help boost the immune system and help it release white blood cells quicker than before. Short sessions of 15 minutes can increase your core temperature to mimic a fever, causing the immune cells to react and practice their skills.

However, while studies indicated that sauna bathing stimulated the immune response, they still needed further studies to back up these initial findings.

There are a few concerns to consider before stepping into a sauna while you’re ill, such as raising your core temperature too much and risking heat exhaustion. To get the best health benefits, listen to your body and pair regular sauna sessions with a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet.