Can a Sauna Help You Lose Belly Fat?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Justin Ternes
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Saunas are well known worldwide for their fantastic health benefits and preventive capabilities of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Routine sauna visits improve circulation and cardiac performance, boost your immune system, and provide a sense of calmness to most users. Many health claims have also claimed that saunas can contribute to weight loss and “burn fat.” So, can a sauna help you lose belly fat?

Saunas alone can’t cause belly fat loss. However, with proper diet and exercise, they can help with overall weight loss.  No diet, exercise, or sauna can have targeted weight loss on a specific body part. They can only help you lose an overall percentage of body fat by speeding up your metabolic rate. 

Unfortunately, there is no proven method for “spot weight loss” or losing fat on a targeted body part. When you lose weight, it’s mostly a reduction in fat throughout your body. However, depending on genetics, fat may be lost first in different areas of different people. With a rigorous exercise and diet routine, saunas can help you lose weight, resulting in less body fat. If you want to know more about the sauna’s effect on calorie burn and metabolic rate, continue reading!

Effects of Saunas on Calorie Burn and Metabolic Rate

The heat of a sauna primes the body’s thermoregulation response which often goes by the name homeostasis as well. This response includes sweating, increased circulation and cardiac output, and a faster heart rate.

Increased function of your cardiovascular system burns more calories, akin to moderate exercise. Routine visits to the sauna have been shown to improve the metabolic rates of its users. If you increase your metabolic rate, your body will burn more calories while idling and doing everyday tasks. 

How Does the Sauna Help with Calorie Burn?

Cartoon larger man in a sauna sweating

Saunas take your body down a path of better health. By increasing your cardiac output and heart rate, your body burns extra calories. As we’ve explained before in our guide on saunas and skincare, the increased sweat also flushes out toxins and impurities from your body while lowering your water weight.

Excess water weight can make you feel bloated – in fact, some people can lose up to 5 pounds in a single sauna session. However, water weight is just that – water. You’ll gain most of it back when you rehydrate. The increase in the body’s metabolism is because it has to work harder – most people’s heart rate increases over 30%.

Many medical experts claim that routine sauna visits can increase your metabolism by about 20%. Longer and more frequent sauna visits can increase this rate and have “after-burn” effects hours after leaving. Additionally, saunas reduce stress.

Stress is a significant factor in weight gain for many people. The tension relief and endorphin release that saunas provide make it easier for individuals to stick to a diet and exercise regimen. These “happy hormones” help sauna enthusiasts stay motivated and energized enough to exercise. 

Lastly, since saunas work both your cardiovascular system and your lungs, it increases your exercise capacity. An increased exercise capacity means you will exercise more intensely and for more extended periods of time before exhaustion. Lengthier workouts mean you can burn more calories which naturally leads to weight loss. 

How Can Sauna Use Affect Belly Fat Specifically?

As you age, the body tends to store more fat in the waistline. In general, older people have less muscle mass and more fat. If you are struggling with belly fat, dieting and exercising with sauna use can help promote overall fat loss, which will lead to a smaller belly. 

The Two Types of Belly Fat

There are two types of belly fat that can be the cause of a large waistline. The first is called subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat is the fat that is underneath your skin and causes “fat rolls.” It’s soft and pliable; you can pinch it and measure it with fat calipers. 

The second type of belly fat is visceral fat, which is stored around your organs. Lots of visceral fat around your organs is linked to many ailments, such as cardiovascular disease. It can appear as a round “beer belly” and feels stiffer than subcutaneous fat. 

If you are overweight, you likely have both types of fat. However, depending on your genetics, diet, and how long you’ve been carrying extra weight, you may have more visceral fat than subcutaneous fat or vice versa. Too much of either type of fat is not good for your body. If you’re looking to trim down, you can supplement sauna use with diet and exercise to tighten your belt. 

How to Lose Belly Fat With Saunas

The best way to lose body fat is through diet and exercise. Saunas are supplementary and certainly help make weight loss easier. When you eat fewer calories and burn more of them through exercise and sauna use, your overall body fat percentage will decrease.

As the body fat percentage decreases, you’ll lose incremental amounts of fat everywhere on your body- i.e., your legs, butt, arms, chest, and even your face. Saunas help you get to your weight loss goals by supporting calorie burning. 

Best Exercises to Address Belly Fat Combined With Sauna Use

Cartoon larger man sweating after a workout

Any physical activity that burns calories will help with fat loss in your body. Combined with a proper diet and eating fewer calories than you burn in a day will help you quickly shed pounds. Remember, spot weight loss isn’t a thing.

You can’t do a few sit-ups and extra that to only remove fat from your core. Although sit-ups will strengthen your core muscles, they won’t remove the layer of fat above the muscles. Fat loss is all about calories in versus calories out – something that saunas can certainly help with, but only as a supplemental aid and not the only thing.

If you burn more calories than you eat, your body’s overall fat percentage will start to decrease. Some of the best exercises to burn lots of calories are cardio and aerobic exercises. When you combine some of these fantastic exercises down below with calorie restrictions and frequent sauna use, you’ll be surprised how quickly your scale goes down:

  • Walking, jogging, and running
  • Bicycling 
  • Burpees 
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
  • Rowing
  • Swimming
  • Group fitness classes
  • Powerlifting

When to Use a Sauna For Weight Loss

To get the optimum weight loss boost from saunas, it is recommended to visit the sauna directly after your workout. Remember, sauna use is like a mild exercise in and of itself, so you don’t want to use it before your workout and then be fatigued when you hit the gym.

Instead, working out first will allow you to work out at full capacity and burn the maximum amount of calories. Then, when you are thoroughly exhausted, you can shower then visit the sauna for a “cool down.” The sauna will not only burn extra calories, but the heat will also nurture your muscles and help them recover sooner.

Recall, the heat improves circulation, which improves oxygenated blood flow to your muscles. In the end, your muscles gain a restorative supplement from the sauna, making them heal and recover faster. You’ll be back in the gym soon, working them even more (and burning more calories) in an instant!

Saunas Twice a Day or More For Weight Loss

If you are a new sauna user, you shouldn’t jump right in with multiple sauna visits a day. Start with a few 15-50 minute sessions every week. Then slowly build up the length of your stay and how often you visit. After you acclimate your body to more extended sauna sessions and more frequent visits throughout the week, you can add in multiple saunas stays a day.

For example, you can visit the sauna in the morning, then again later in the day after your afternoon workout. When you visit the sauna multiple times a day, it has compounding effects on your cardiovascular output.

Your heart rate increases and you burn more calories (more often). The more often you do this, the more calories you burn. On top of that, a multiple visits per day routine has more effective metabolism-boosting after effects. 

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