9 Key Sauna Vs Hot Tub Health Benefits

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Medically reviewed by, Russell Braun RPH

Today more than ever the evidence is clear, sweating is good for you.  Studies have shown that heat exposure can be beneficial for blood pressure, heart disease and inflammation.  That begs the question, which is better for your health sauna vs hot tub?

Blood vessels under the skin begin to dilate or open up when exposed to heat.  The body does this to try and exchange heat from the blood to regulate your temperature.  With wider blood vessels the heart has to pump faster to regulate your blood pressure.  Increasing blood flow has positive effects on circulation and is thought to be the main reason behind the health benefits of hot tub and sauna baths. 

1. What Is The Difference Between Sauna, Jacuzzi and Hot Tub?

First lets clarify what each of these types of heat baths are by definition. 

Sauna: A small room used as a hot air or steam bath for cleaning and refreshing the body. 

Jacuzzi: A large bath with a system of underwater jets to massage the body.

Hot Tub: A large tub filled with hot aerated water use for recreation or physical therapy. 

Obviously, the biggest difference is that in a sauna you are exposed to hot air or steam.  In contrast for a jacuzzi or hot tub you are immersed in water.  Lets take a closer look at each one to determine the other differences. 

Sauna and hot tub


Most sauna’s are made of wood and have a heat source that develops high temperatures. More recently smaller personal saunas have become popular. They surround your body while your head stays outside of them. For traditional wood saunas, there are two types wet and dry. Wet saunas create steam and therefore have more humidity. They are also typically lower temperatures. Dry saunas have lowers humidity and higher temperatures.

Typically temperatures for infrared sauna (uses infrared lamps to create the heat) are 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit. Traditional saunas normally reach temperatures of 150-175 degrees Fahrenheit.

Both types have health benefits. The decision usually comes down to personal preference of wet vs dry. The body heats up in a gradual fashion similar to sitting near a fire. Other factors that come into play are the lighting, sound systems and fragrances that can be incorporated.


If you like the idea of massaging while you relax in the heated water then a jacuzzi might be the right choice. There will be jets in a jacuzzi that are below the water level that massage different areas of the body. A pump is used to provide different levels of pressure via the jets.

People often use the terms jacuzzi and hot tub interchangeably. However, most jacuzzi’s are larger than hot tubs and as mentioned have jets to provide massage. Aside from the massage the health benefits and risks are essentially the same.

Hot Tub

In general hot tubs can be smaller and some are even inflatable. They still have heated water similar to the jacuzzi. Water temperature can be easily adjusted up or down based on your preference. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends temperature between 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit.

Both hot tubs and jacuzzis can raise your core body temperature. It is important if you have any diseases or conditions that you talk to your doctor before using either.

2. Are There Any Health Benefits To Sitting In A Hot Tub?

There are many health benefits to jacuzzis and hot tubs. The primary benefit is stress relief. Stress alone can be detrimental to your health in many ways. Some of the other health benefits of a hot tub are in the table below.

AnxietyPainRegulate blood pressure
HeadachesImprove circulationRheumatoid arthritis
OsteoarthritisLower blood sugarWeight loss
Reduce stressEase tensionMuscle soreness

Many of these health benefits have clinical studies backing them up. Others are case by case reported by hot tub users. Once again, the biggest thing hot tub users swear by is stress relief. That alone may be worth using a hot tub on a regular basis.  

3. What’s Better For Sore Muscles Hot Tub Or Sauna?  

Relief of sore muscles after a workout is a benefit for both saunas and hot tubs. In both cases the heat from the air or water causes more blood flow to your extremities. That increased blood flow helps in two key ways.

  1. Increases the oxygen, protein and energy needed for muscles to grow.
  2. Helps to remove the by products and toxins that the muscle produced during exercise.

The addition of the jets in the hot tub can provide a massaging effect. Many people like this as it can be quite relaxing.

How Long Should You Sit In A Hot Tub For Sore Muscles?

The tension in muscles will decrease with the heat from a sauna or hot tub.

How long should you subject your muscles to the heat for maximum benefit is a frequent question.

The answer is……..

it depends.

Everyone is unique and there should be a plan tailored for beginners vs seasoned sauna or hot tub users. Those starting out should set a goal of 5-7 minutes and build up slowly from there. Each time you may want to add 2-3 minutes. Ideally, getting to 20-30 minutes after each workout will provide maximum benefits.

4. Does Sauna Help With Joint Pain?

Saunas increase blood flow because the body is trying to regulate your temperature. The blood flowing to the extremities promotes sweating to lower your temperature. This results in more blood flow to the joints as well. Therefore, joint tension and pain can be reduced.

A study looked at rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients who used an infrared (IR) sauna eight times over four weeks. They found that pain, stiffness and fatigue were all significantly decreased. In addition the patients had no adverse effects. If you suffer from RA, infrared sauna may help you avoid the dreaded joint pains associated with that disease.

5. Does A Hot Tub Help Osteoarthritis?

 Osteoarthritis is the type of arthritis that creeps up on most of us as we age. This type of joint pain can limit activity and lead to further declines in health. Taking the pressure off the joint by swimming is often offered as an alternative way of getting some exercise with osteoarthritis. The buoyancy the water provides helps take pressure off of the sore joint.

Similarly, a hot tub can provide that buoyancy as well. The heat also promotes blood flow into the joint which is thought to help with healing. In fact, a study found that pain scores at rest, during movement and at night were all decreased by people who used hot tubs. These patients used hot tubs three times per week for 20 minutes.

6. Can Sitting In A Sauna or Hot Tub Help You Lose Weight?

As stated, the heat from sauna or hot tub will increase blood flow. This may help you burn some calories as well due to an increased heart rate. In both environments your body is sweating out water to help maintain temperature. Therefore, you would see weight loss if you got on a scale before and after your sauna or hot tub session.

The problems is that the weight you lose is from water. Water weight is lean weight, not the type of weight you want to lose long term. Also, you need to rehydrate after a session where you are sweating in the hot tub or sauna. This will ultimately put the weight you lost back on. However, this is not a problem because being hydrated is very important to your health overall.

Saunas and hot tubs are not a silver bullet for weight loss, but they still provide many other health benefits.

7. Is It OK To Sauna or Hot Tub Everyday?

The short answer is yes, it is fine to use a sauna or hot tub every day. The main thing to remember is that you need to rehydrate your body each day. If you get dehydrated and don’t replenish fluids then you could experience blood pressure lowering. That could make you dizzy and increase the risk of falling.

The benefits of daily sauna or hot tub use include:

  • Decrease stress
  • Increased mood if you know you have that relaxation time to look forward to each day
  • Deeper sleep from endorphins released secondary to the heat
  • Decreased joint tenderness from inflammation

Tips For Everyday Sauna or Hot Tub Use

  • Consider showering first to remove oils and lotions from your skin
  • Avoid alcohol prior to entering or while in a sauna or hot tub
  • Try taking a break half way through to get your body to respond to the heat twice in one session
  • Take a shower afterwards to remove the toxins that were eliminated by sweating

8. Does Sauna Help Inflammation?

Chronic Inflammation is a key driver of many of the major diseases states seen in society today. Most people don’t realize this low level inflammation is taking place until they get a disease diagnosis. The good news is that sauna can help reduce inflammation.

Saunas are thought to help reduce inflammation by helping to eliminate toxins from the body via sweat. Heavy metals and man made toxins get stored in the body in fat cells and lead to inflammation.

Studies have shown that C-reactive protein (CRP), which is an inflammatory marker is reduced by sauna bathing. In fact, CRP levels dropped the most in patients who used sauna more frequently. Those who used sauna 4-7 times per week saw the greatest reduction.

9. Which Is Better Sauna Or Hot Tub?    

Which form of heat therapy is better for you? It may come down to preference of being in water or not. Or perhaps you may be concerned with maintenance and upkeep. These are valid considerations but lets look at the evidence for which is better sauna or hot tub.


When you expose yourself to the heat in a sauna it is harder for the sweat to evaporate from your skin. Therefore, the heart has to work harder to get more blood to the skin so more perspiration can occur. If this did not happen you would not be able to keep your temperature in a normal range and you would overheat. Also, in an effort to help the sweat evaporate your blood vessels in the skin open up. This often makes you look red while in the sauna.

These changes that occur are responsible for the health benefits of sauna. The table below provides some of the specific health boosting effects sauna can have.

Sauna Pros:

Toxin removalSweating results in the removal of heavy metals and other man made toxins we are exposed to everyday. Increased blood flow and skin blood vessel dilation aides in this removal. Toxins are a leading caused of chronic inflammation that leads to many diseases.
Cleanse skinIncreased sweating helps to clear skin pores. It also can help remove damaged and dead skin cells.
Pain reliefJoint pain and muscle pain and tenderness are both relieved by sauna bathing. Increased blood flow to joints & muscles helps remove toxic byproducts of inflammation and exercise.
Improved sleepSauna heat can provide deeper sleep for frequent users. During sleep processes kick in to heal and rejuvenate your body. Anything that can improve sleep will result in a healthier lifestyle.
Immune boostingHeat from sauna raises white blood cell production. This helps to prevent infections from bacteria and viruses.
Lowers stressSitting in a sauna bath is very relaxing. Quiet relaxation is at the heart of most destress programs. When cortisol, the stress hormone, is lowered we see positive health effects.
Reduce blood pressureEven though the heart has to pump harder while in a sauna the overall blood pressure is lowered. This happens because blood vessels dilate, or open up, allowing more blood to flow to the skin.
Lower costCompared to hot tubs, saunas are typically the cheaper option.
Less maintenanceHot tubs require balancing of water chemistry levels. Saunas do not require frequent maintenance.

Sauna Cons:

Long exposures or dehydration could lower blood pressure too low resulting in dizziness or headaches.

Although cheaper than hot tubs wood saunas can range from $1,500 to $5,000 depending on size. Portable saunas are much cheaper but don’t enclose your whole body.

Indoor saunas may need venting to be installed in your home. Proper venting could be an added cost.

Hot Tub

Similar to a sauna, hot tubs increase your body temperature. The result is your heart will pump more blood to the skin to try and get your sweat to evaporate. This is the primary way hot tubs provide their benefits. The difference is that it is harder to remove toxins through sweat in a hot tub. This is due to skin being in direct contact with the water.

Hot Tub Pros:

Improved sleepThe heat from a hot tub can be very relaxing which helps people fall asleep. It can also improve sleep quality.
Joint pain reliefThe buoyancy of floating in water takes pressure off of joints. This along with the heat can improve blood flow to joints. These effects can reduce pain in affected joints.
Reduce muscle sorenessHeat results in increased blood flow to muscles. This leads to more oxygen being delivered and toxins being removed. Therefore, soreness from exercising or exertion can be reduced.
Decreased blood sugarStudies have shown that hot tub baths produce effects on blood sugar similar to exercise. The best practice is to exercise and then use a hot tub to get maximum blood sugar lowering effects.

Hot Tub Cons:

If the water is not treated properly there is a risk of bacterial growth. This could cause infections if left unattended.

Purchasing a hot tub can be a large expense. Hot tubs can range from small inflatables to large fiberglass models. Costs can range from $800-$20,000. In addition to purchase prices they will run around $20-$25 per month in energy bills.

Maintaining the chemistry of the water needs to done on a regular basis. This can take time and does have a cost to keep in mind.

The Clear Winner

Based on the health benefits sauna is a clear winner over hot tubs. In addition, there is less up front cost and maintenance.

A review done by Mayo Clinic looked at studies that have been done on sauna bathing and its effects on health. The review summarized dramatic positive effects of sauna bathing. Thousands of people took part in these studies in Finland where sauna bathing is a very common practice. The most dramatic benefits were seen in people who used sauna 4 or more times per week.

The key findings of this study include:

  • 40% lower risk of death from all causes
  • 50% decrease in risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • 47% reduction in risk of developing high blood pressure
  • 66% decrease risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • 41% lower risk of respiratory disease
  • 37% reduction in cases of pneumonia

As with anything in life there are always benefits and risks. The risks for sauna and hot tub come from risk of overheating. Always keep in mind:

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
  • Pregnant women should ask their doctor before using a hot tub or sauna
  • Do not consume alcohol or drugs before or during hot tub or sauna. This could result in drowning, overheating or burns.

Click here to get Dr. Jason Reed’s exclusive list of medication questions you MUST ask your doctor, for FREE!

Share Your Story

Have you tried sauna or hot tub? Also, please share how they worked for you. Chime in below with your comments and thoughts.


Laukkane, Jari et al. Sauna bathing and systemic inflammation. Eur J Epidemiol. 2018:33: 351-353.

Laukkanen, Tanjaniina, Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing: A review of the evidence. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2018;8: 1111-1121 

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