Our reporter tests out an infrared sauna to see if there are health benefits.
Journalism is a strange profession. Some days you’re working until 11 p.m. covering a meeting where the list of public speakers seems never-ending. Some days you take photos of turtles on the beach.
And some days you find yourself basically naked in a contraption designed to make you sweat and questioning if you somehow fell into Dante’s sixth circle of hell— you know, the one where heretics are condemned to eternity in flaming tombs.
Said contraption was an infrared therapy pod at Sarasota's Blufit Recovery & Nutrition, which has been offering the service since 2017. The pod heats a person with infrared lights that heat the body from within, unlike a traditional sauna, which heats from the surrounding air.
The goal is to sweat out harmful toxins in the body, and Blufit Manager Tina Trieu said people can burn anywhere from 200-600 calories in a 55-minute session.
The treatment is also said to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, boost digestion and improve sleep.
Further, a study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that repeated thermal therapy improves heart functionality in patients with coronary risk factors.
Trieu, however, said the biggest benefit is the detoxification.
“If you don’t detox your body, toxins from smoking, drinking, sugar, fried food, etc., will stay in your body,” Trieu said.
Gulp. Aside from not smoking, I’m not doing my body many favors.
The idea of using a sauna as a detoxification method has drawn controversy throughout the medical field. A study published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health said sweat can release some toxins from the body, but doctors generally say it is the job of the kidneys and liver, not sweat, to release toxins.
Before I got in, Trieu explained the pod would have a massage for my upper body and legs, a stress-reducing blue light above my head, a vibrating panel on my middle section that is said to reduce fat and cellulite, and, of course, the infrared light. This pod is a sauna on health-centric steroids.
After ensuring that I didn’t have disqualifying circumstances — such as a pregnancy, a pacemaker or osteoporosis — I was led to a room and asked to strip down. Then it was time to sweat.
Before I tell you about my experience, let me share some facts about myself:
I’m always cold. I keep a blanket under my desk at the office. I wear fleece pajamas to bed … in Florida. For 15 years I was a softball catcher in the muggy Missouri humidity. In layman’s term, it takes a lot for me to sweat.
This pod was hot.
I don’t mean it was Florida in August hot. I mean I sweat more than I have in my entire life.
The ironic part? My machine was set on 131 degrees Fahrenheit. The maximum temperature is 158.
But it was also relaxing. I love having an excuse to not check my phone for an hour during the business day. I love lying around and doing nothing, especially when I’m getting paid.
Although I enjoyed the relaxation, I’m unsure of the detox benefits.
In the waiting room, however, I ran into Sarasota resident Jennifer Lajeunesse, who has used Blufit’s infrared pods to do an annual detox since 2018. She does 10 sessions in the month of January each year as part of a 21-day detox and then receives the treatment periodically throughout the year.
“It’s great because not only do you get the infrared benefits, but it also vibrates and massages you,” she said. “It’s a good way to cleanse the body and feel refreshed.”
I didn’t feel exceptionally cleansed of toxins when I left the pod — maybe I need to do more treatments — but I did feel refreshed. My heart rate had increased, I had taken a much-needed relaxation break, and my skin even had a nice glow.
That evening I fell asleep quickly, though I did wake up feeling like I’d been stranded in the desert for a week. So if you give this therapy a try, keep a bottle of water handy.