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Sauna vs. Steam Room vs. Sweat Lodge


Sauna
Heat Index: 160 to 200 degrees, 5% to 30% humidity
How It Works: Infrared rays or stones warmed over a furnace or stove produce dry heat.
Session Length: Twenty minutes, max
Ick Factor: Low. Saunas are made of wood, because dry heat won't warp it. Less moisture means fewer germs.
What to Bring: A towel, to sit on
Body Benefit: Reduced post-workout muscle inflammation
Detox Effects: None
Risk Assessment: Low. Fit, hydrated bodies are usually fine, with a minimal risk of dehydration and overheating.

Steam Room
Heat Index: 110 to 114 degrees, 100% humidity
How It Works: Water warmed by heaters and converted to steam provides moist heat.
Session Length: Twenty minutes, max
Ick Factor: Medium. Metal, tile, or plastic benches, thanks to the moisture, breed bacteria.
What to Bring: An old bathing suit; high temps can ruin elasticity. Or go naked.
Body Benefits: Reduced muscle inflammation and help with congestion
Detox Effects: Nada
Risk Assessment: Medium. Humidity ups your risk of dehydration and overheating.

Sweat Lodge
Heat Index: 102 to 106 degrees, varying humidity
How It Works: Water is poured over fire-warmed stones to generate steam.
Session Length: Purification ceremonies last several hours.
Ick Factor: High. You might be in a domed hut or covered hole. Beware of people vomiting from smoke inhalation.
What to Bring: Skip synthetic fibers and metal jewelry; they can get hot and burn the skin.
Body Benefit: Reduced muscle inflammation
Detox Effects: Nil
Risk Assessment: High. In 2009, three people died from heat-related illness after paying $9,695 each to experience an Arizona sweat lodge.

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