For many years, the only place you’d find a sauna was at your local health club. But today, in-home saunas are growing in popularity as people want to enjoy their benefits in private and on their own schedule.
Two factors are fueling this surge in demand: the ease of in-home installation and sauna’s purported health benefits. Installing a sauna is a relatively easy do-it-yourself job. Small one- and two-seater models that can easily fit in a bedroom or basement can be installed by one person in little more than an hour. One-person saunas can be as small as 3 x 3 x 6 feet or can be custom built to any size.
Installation is really easy, says Scott White of his four-person, far-infrared sauna, which sits in the corner of his bedroom. “It basically came in five pieces and it just snaps together. You connect the wires and you are pretty much good to go.” White did have to hire an electrician to install a 220-volt electrical receptacle, but he did the rest of the work himself.
The health benefits of saunas are increasing consumer interest and sales, which have been rising about 10 percent a year according to Finnleo Saunas of Cokato, Minn, a leading manufacturer and distributor. When entering a sauna, the goal is to work up an intense sweat—which is heralded for everything from arthritis relief to autism treatment via detoxification to weight loss. A recent, although small, study in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology of sauna’s effect on rheumatoid arthritis symptoms showed improvements in pain, stiffness and energy level in people using infrared saunas regularly. Harvard Men’s Health Watch reports that asthmatics experience less wheezing and symptoms abate for psoriasis sufferers after sauna use. But many of the other health claims, specifically regarding detoxification of heavy metals, have never been subject to intense scientific study.
White, who is a personal trainer in Scottsdale, Ariz., invested in a sauna because he believes it helps the muscles recover after a workout. And by the way he falls asleep so easily after a good sweat in the sauna, he knows it aids in relaxation. “I think it boosts the immune system,” White says. “It helps your body just totally cool out.”
If you decide to install a sauna, the major decision you’ll have to make is between the two leading types available: far-infrared or traditional. Here’s a primer on both.
Traditional Sauna Traditional saunas are modeled on the design used for centuries in Finland where these hot rooms are used regularly by one-third of the population. Inside the sauna, there is a small rectangular heating unit, on top of which are several rocks that help heat the room to as high as 175 degrees. Rooms can be custom-ordered to any specifications. Nordic white spruce, cedar and hemlock are popular woods used in their construction.
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