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Is Sauna or Steam Room Better for Weight Loss?

Is a sauna or a steam room better for weight loss? Do you wonder where it’s better to sweat after workouts? Should you sweat it out in a humid steam room or spend time in the glass-encased sauna? What other benefits could the heat treatments offer you?

So, which one is better? Both heat treatments have some benefits that may assist with weight loss. However, the post-workout benefits a sauna and steam room provide are different. Let’s discover which sweat-out might suit you better. 

Which Is Healthier Steam or Sauna?

Here are some quick differences between a sauna and a steam room:

  • A sauna provides dry heat but steam rooms provide humidity (3, 2)
  • Saunas and steam rooms increase your heart rate (15, 9)
  • An increased heart rate may encourage more calorie burns (18)
  • Saunas can reduce joint stiffness and pain (3)
  • Steam rooms can reduce blood pressure (6)

With that in mind, let’s dig deeper to see which one truly stands out as the weight loss assistant. 

Steam Room vs. Sauna Differences

It is helpful to know the steam room vs. sauna differences to understand the potential benefits of each. The research around steam rooms is limited, so we’ll cross-reference a review that uses a specific type of Finnish sauna bathing with steam, to consider the potential benefits. 

How Saunas and Steam Rooms Work

An infrared sauna or otherwise known as Finnish sauna bathing, is typically a room made of wood with infrared rays that penetrate the skin to encourage a rising temperature and has a dry heat range of 115-140°F (3). These infrared saunas work to heat up your body from the inside rather than from heating the air around you, like a dry sauna would. The infrared light is able to penetrate through your body. While dry sauna bathing doesn’t fill the room with steam, it works to heat up the air and space around you. These dry saunas tend to be at a higher temperature than an infrared sauna which can make it more challenging to stay in them for a longer period of time.

Meanwhile, steam rooms are also known as steam baths, which typically have tiled floors and glass walls and use a generator to heat steam to an average temperature of 176-212°F. Steam rooms are also very humid at 95-100% humidity for a wet sweat. 

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Finnish sauna bathing also sometimes uses humidity and heat by throwing water over hot stones to create steam similar to steam rooms (2). The research around steam rooms is limited, but you can look at the hot stone steaming benefits of Finnish sauna bathing for a close comparison with those using steam created by throwing water over the stones. 

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How Long Should You Stay in a Steam Room?

Australian research on the Finnish tradition of dry sauna bathing found that 15-30 minutes is the average time spent in infrared saunas (3). The Mayo Clinic found similar timeframes in their review of wet steam room bathing among Finnish populations, but with an average of 5-20 minutes across most studies (2). Anywhere from 5-30 minutes is typically recommended to be able to sweat it out. But remember to take precautions when using any of these options due to the potential increase of your heart rate. Hydration is very important when using these forms of heat and if you feel dizzy or faint, exit the sauna or room immediately.   

Who Should Avoid Infrared Saunas and Steam Rooms?

Traditional Finnish sauna bathing has cardiorespiratory benefits (3). However, some individuals should avoid using steam rooms and saunas. A long-term cohort study found that individuals with cardiorespiratory disorders should avoid sweating it out (4). 

In addition, steaming or dry heat could lead to dehydration or heat stroke, which isn’t ideal for expectant mothers, children, or anyone sensitive to dehydration and heat. Johns Hopkins Medicine warns that losing water weight could lead to dehydration or heat stroke (5).

Sweating it out makes you lose water weight, which is water the body retains in tissue. It makes you look bloated and losing it is great, but it’s temporary. Nonetheless, get out of the steam room or sauna if you have the following signs of dehydration or heat stroke (5):

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Erratic heart rate
  • Extreme thirst
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Keep yourself hydrated to avoid symptoms, or immediately rehydrate yourself if you experience signs of dehydration in a steam room or infrared sauna. Heat is the worst dehydrator and as your body loses sweat, it is losing the water that it needs to retain in order to keep your body properly hydrated. WebMD states that steaming opens your pores to let out toxins (17). 

Unfortunately, those open pores also increase how much fluids you lose. Finally, avoid steam rooms or saunas if you have a history of stroke, have low blood pressure, are currently ill, or drink alcohol before steaming as you’ll dehydrate even further (9). 

is sauna or steam room better for weight loss 

Should You Use a Steam Room or Sauna First?

Which you use first depends on your goals. Use a dry sauna before exercising to loosen joints and reduce stiffness or after workouts to aid muscle repair with improved blood circulation to get the vital nutrients to sore muscles (3). 

Dry sauna bathing is good before and after workouts for different reasons. Additionally,  saunas and steam rooms increase your heart rate to improve potential calorie burns post-exercise (15, 9, 18). Steam rooms raise your heart rate by lowering blood pressure.

Finally, use steam rooms after a workout to support muscle recovery and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). A small review in California found that wet heat worked better than dry heat for DOMS and required a shorter exposure time (12). 

Read more: Why Stop Eating Oatmeal – A Breakfast Revolution

Is a Sauna or Steam Room Better for You?

The steam room vs. sauna debate has valuable answers on both sides. Each option has potential benefits for health, weight loss, and even your skin. Let’s discover some benefits and which is better for weight loss. 

Sauna Benefits Overview

An Australian systematic review of dry sauna bathing shows potentially promising benefits of frequent use (3). You may have improved blood circulation, heart health, cardiac output, and an increased heart rate, which may affect calorie burns, but we’ll discuss that later.

Also, dry saunas may reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, pain, and joint stiffness, which is useful if you do a few minutes of dry sauna bathing before working out. Furthermore, the review found some evidence to support how dry saunas could improve mood, reduce depression, induce relaxation, and improve circulation post-workout to help muscle repair. 

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Steam Room Benefits Overview

The benefits related to steam rooms originate from a Mayo Clinic review focusing on Finnish saunas that use water over hot stones to add humidity and steam (2). Not all the benefits may relate to wet steaming, but there isn’t enough direct evidence for steam rooms. 

Please note that the review also focuses on the potential benefits of frequent steaming with regular exercise. Nonetheless, the review found that steam bathing with water thrown over hot stones may improve good (HDL) cholesterol levels while reducing the bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. 

Steam rooms may reduce headaches, rehydrate the skin, and reduce depression symptoms. A small Indian study also shows that steam rooms improve cardiovascular functions and reduce blood pressure (6). 

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Is a Sauna or Steam Room Better for Detox?

Facial steaming has long been used to detox your skin by opening your pores with hot steam to release toxins (17). However, the secret is to force your pores open with steaming hot water. Dry saunas don’t provide the same steaming benefits of opening the pores. 

Some ways steam detoxes your skin is by purging excess sebum and increasing circulation by providing more oxygen, which may increase collagen and elastin (17). A small Johnson & Johnson study found excess sebum to be a culprit in inflammatory acne (14). 

Is the Sauna or Steam Room Better for Skin?

The Johnson & Johnson study further supports steam rooms as a benefit for the skin because sebum, specifically squalene, is the primary culprit in inflammatory acne (14). Facial steaming opens the pores to release the organic compounds from your skin (17).

Facial steaming also hydrates your skin for added plumpness and an even tone (17). Steam provides skin cells with water as the pores open and can prepare your skin to better absorb moisturizing products (11). However, avoid steam rooms if you have rosacea or broken skin.

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The evidence suggests a steam room is better for your skin than a dry sauna. Additionally, a Korean review found that infrared heat skin treatments may speed up aging and create more wrinkles (7). The review notes that evidence is limited, but dry heat isn’t ideal for skin.  

is sauna or steam room better for weight loss  

Is a Sauna or Steam Room Better for Weight Loss

A small Polish study confirmed how individuals lost weight by spending time in a dry sauna (13). However, individuals with lower body mass indexes (BMIs) lost more weight, while people with higher BMIs were at greater risk of dehydration. More research is necessary to understand the results as there could be a number of factors that contribute to weight loss in lower or higher BMI individuals. 

An interesting discovery that your body can burn roughly 3.5 kilocalories per degree Celsius the body temperature is raised was found. This is referred to as the specific heat of bodily tissues in which there will be a 3.5 kilocalorie burn in order to heat 1 kg of bodily tissue by 1 degree Celsius. In summary, your body starts burning more calories to raise your core temperature and as your core temperature increases, your calorie burn will increase because the body needs this energy to heat its tissues.

A calorie deficit with a healthy diet and exercise program is the answer to weight loss. You need at least a 500-calorie deficit daily to lose about a pound weekly (1). However, sauna bathing and steam rooms won’t cut it alone. You also need to eat healthier and exercise. 

Read more: 5 Chicken Alfredo Keto Recipes for Fast Dinners or Family Stunners Without Eating Too Many Carbs

How Many Calories Do You Burn in a Steam Room for 15 Minutes?

How many calories you burn in a steam room depends on your body weight, time spent in the steam room, and the temperature among other factors. For example, a sedentary person weighing 155 pounds sitting in a steam room for 15 minutes at 140°F can burn 17 calories (10). 

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However, the same person can burn 20 calories in 15 minutes with a 170°F setting. Indeed, these calories burned are for sedentary individuals. Solely enjoying a steam room won’t burn many calories. That said, steam rooms do improve cardio functions and elevate your heart rate (6). 

Increasing your heart rate during exercise and maintaining it post-workout may help you continue burning more calories in a steam room. An aerobic heart rate zone is 70-80% of your maximum heart rate and a stage where you burn 45% of calories from fat (18). 

Is Sauna Good for Losing Belly Fat?

A higher heart rate could lead to fat-burning benefits. The Polish review showed how dry saunas increase your heart rate (13). Embracing a sauna post-workout could maintain your higher heart rate, which could put you in the fat-burning heart rate zone. 

Your body burns more fat when you maintain a 60-70% maximal heart rate during and after a workout (18). Doing cardio to elevate your heart rate to the fat-burning zone will help you burn 65% of your calories from fat. Use a fat-burning zone calculator to optimize your efforts after working out (8). 

Is Sauna or Steam Room Better for Weight Loss?

Ultimately, both support weight loss in different ways. Choose the one that fits your goals. For example, use dry saunas to loosen up before a workout or steam rooms after a workout to break a sweat and burn additional calories. Still, weight loss requires more than sweating. 

Remember to reduce your calories, exercise, and follow a healthy diet to lose weight (1).

For more steamy information:


  • Should You Do Steam or Sauna First?

Use a dry sauna first before workouts to loosen muscles and reduce joint stiffness (3). Use a steam room post-workout first to reduce the effects of DOMS (12). Alternatively, use either before and after workouts to achieve and maintain a higher heart rate to burn more calories  (15, 9, 18).

  • Why Use a Steam Room Over a Sauna?

Use a steam room over a dry heat sauna if you’re protecting your skin from aging, as infrared radiation can damage the skin but steaming water clears pores and detoxes the skin’s cells (7, 17). Also, choose a steam room over a sauna to reduce DOMS after a workout (12).

  • Is it Okay to Steam Sauna Every Day?

Australian researchers found that daily dry sauna bathing for ten days resulted in peaked plasma volumes after four days but returned to baseline after seven days of ending the ritual (3). Daily dry sauna bathing could improve blood circulation, making it a safe daily habit for those that do not have preexisting conditions that would negatively impact their time in a sauna. 

  • How Many Calories Do You Burn in a Steam Room for 30 Minutes?

How many calories you burn depends on the temperature, time spent in the steam room, and your body weight. Typically, a sedentary person weighing 140 pounds will burn 30 calories in a 110°F steam room in 30 minutes, or it climbs to 29 calories in 130°F (10). 

The Bottom Line

Is a sauna or a steam room better for weight loss? Both can support weight loss efforts after working out, but neither shows promising calorie burns alone. Knowing this, determine your goals, follow our tips to prevent dehydration, make sure that you do not have any preexisting conditions that would prevent you from using either form of heat exposure and enjoy the recommended times to spend either before or after a workout. 


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Caloric Deficit: What to Know (2023,
  2. Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing: A Review of the Evidence (2018,
  3. Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review (2018,
  4. Combined Effect of Sauna Bathing and Cardiorespiratory Fitness on the Risk of Sudden Cardiac Deaths in Caucasian Men: A Long-term Prospective Cohort Study (2018,
  5. Dehydration and Heat Stroke | Johns Hopkins Medicine (n.d.,
  6. Effect of the Steam Bath on Resting Cardiovascular Parameters in Healthy Volunteers (2021,
  7. Effects of Infrared Radiation and Heat on Human Skin Aging in Vivo (2009,
  8. Fat Burning Zone Calculator (2024,
  9. Health Benefits of Steam Rooms (2021,
  10. How Many Calories Are Burned in a Sauna? (Calculator) (2023,
  11. Is Steaming Your Face Good for Your Skin? (2021,
  12. Moist Heat or Dry Heat for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (2013,
  13. Sauna-Induced Body Mass Loss in Young Sedentary Women and Men (2014,
  14. Sebum Analysis of Individuals With and Without Acne (2009,
  15. The Blood Pressure and Heart Rate During Sauna Bath Correspond to Cardiac Responses During Submaximal Dynamic Exercise (2019,
  16. The Cardiometabolic Health Benefits of Sauna Exposure in Individuals with High-Stress Occupations. A Mechanistic Review (2021,
  17. What to Know About Facial Steaming (2022,
  18. What to Know: Heart Rate for Fat-Burning vs. Cardio (2022,