Hot Tub vs. Sauna Health Benefits: Choose Wisely

Published on

December 30, 2023

Our search for relaxation, wellness, and rejuvenation has led many to embrace hot tubs and saunas as preferred methods of heat therapy. In the hot tub vs. sauna health benefits war, it’s obvious that both offer a soothing retreat, promoting a sense of calm and physical well-being. But when it comes to the health benefits, which one reigns supreme? 

In this article, we delve into the self care world of hot tubs and saunas, comparing their unique properties and exploring the diverse array of health benefits they provide. From stress relief and improved circulation to pain reduction and enhanced mental well-being, join us on a journey to uncover the wonders of hot tubs and saunas and discover which heat therapy option may best suit your health needs. 

The Healing Heat: Similarities Between Hot Tubs and Saunas 

Hot tubs and saunas share a rich, interconnected therapeutic history that traverses time and geographies, firmly rooting them in many cultural traditions worldwide. The use of heat for healing purposes dates back thousands of years, with historical records indicating the practice across diverse societies from ancient Rome to traditional Native American cultures.

  • The origins of the sauna trace back to Northern Europe, particularly Finland, where its use was more than a hygienic routine; it was a cherished social activity and even a place for healing the sick. The combination of heat, steam, and sometimes aromatic herbs was believed to purify the body and spirit, contributing to overall wellness.
  • Hot tubs, also known as spas, have historical roots in various cultures, most notably in ancient Rome and Japan. Romans used public bathhouses that included hot baths, viewing them as essential social and communal spaces, promoting relaxation and well-being. In Japan, the tradition of hot spring bathing, or "onsen," is deeply ingrained in the culture. The naturally heated waters are believed to possess healing properties, contributing to relaxation and rejuvenation.

Despite the distinct cultural origins of saunas and hot tubs, they have converged in modern times as prominent elements of wellness regimens, championed for their shared therapeutic potential, using heat as a medium to promote physical and mental health. The historical traditions underlying both these practices underscore their time-tested benefits and enrich our understanding of their value in contemporary wellness contexts.

What Are the Common Health Benefits of Hot Tubs and Saunas?

The common health benefits of hot tubs and saunas are stress relief, improved sleep, pain reduction, improved circulation, detoxification, skin health, and post-workout recovery. They also include mental health benefits, cardiovascular health, boosted immune system, enhanced mood, relief from respiratory issues, improved flexibility, headache alleviation, and potential weight management.

1. Stress Relief

Utilizing either a hot tub or a sauna can be a powerful tool for managing stress. The warm, soothing environments help to relax tight muscles, relieving physical tension. Additionally, they provide a quiet space for mental reprieve, away from daily distractions. This combined physical and mental relaxation can help in reducing overall stress levels.

2. Improved Sleep

The relaxation promoted by these heat therapies can significantly improve sleep quality. The heat helps your body to relax and induces a state of calmness conducive to a good night's sleep. This can particularly benefit those suffering from insomnia or other sleep disorders.

3. Pain Reduction

Hot tubs and saunas can be potent allies in pain management. The increased circulation and heat help alleviate various types of pain, including chronic pain, arthritis, muscle aches, and joint pain. The warm environment helps relax muscles, reducing stiffness and discomfort.

4. Improved Circulation

The heat from saunas and hot tubs induces vasodilation - the widening of blood vessels - which enhances blood flow throughout the body. Improved circulation can boost overall health, influencing everything from cardiovascular health to skin condition.

5. Detoxification

Sweating is one of the body's primary methods of eliminating toxins, and both saunas and hot tubs promote good sweat. This detoxification process aids in removing impurities from the body, potentially leading to improved health and well-being.

6. Skin Health

The sweating and heat-induced by these heat therapies can open up the pores and cleanse the skin, eliminating dirt and toxins. This deep cleansing process can improve skin health, potentially leading to clearer and more vibrant skin.

7. Post-Workout Recovery

Many athletes turn to saunas and hot tubs to aid in post-workout recovery. The heat can help alleviate muscle tension, reduce soreness, and speed up recovery time, allowing for a quicker return to training.

Read more here: 7 Remarkable Benefits of Hot Tub After Workout: The Ultimate Guide

8. Mental Health Benefits 

The benefits of hot tub and sauna use extend beyond physical wellness, contributing to overall mental health. Regular heat therapy usage can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, boosting mood, and promoting a sense of overall mental well-being.

9. Cardiovascular Health Benefits

When you're in a hot environment, your heart works a bit harder to help cool down the body, thereby acting as a form of cardiovascular exercise. This cardiovascular workout can potentially strengthen the heart over time, contributing to overall cardiovascular health. You can incorporate this with hot tub games and fun spa exercise routines.

10. Boosted Immune System Function

Saunas and hot tubs may contribute to a healthier immune system by promoting better blood circulation and reduced stress levels. Improved circulation allows for more efficient transport of immune cells throughout the body, while stress reduction contributes to a healthier immune response.

11. Enhanced Mood 

Hot tubs and saunas can stimulate the body's production of endorphins, the 'feel-good' chemicals. These endorphins can enhance mood and promote a general sense of well-being, contributing to overall mental health.

12. Relief from Respiratory Issues

The steam generated in saunas and hot tubs can alleviate certain respiratory issues. The warm, moist air can help clear the airways and reduce congestion, offering relief to those suffering from conditions such as asthma or allergies.

13. Improved Flexibility 

The heat from both saunas and hot tubs can help you relax muscles, potentially leading to improved flexibility and mobility. This can be especially beneficial for individuals working on their flexibility or recovering from injuries.

14. Alleviation of Headaches

Certain types of headaches, particularly those related to tension or poor circulation, can be relieved by the heat and improved circulation provided by saunas and hot tubs.

15. Potential Weight Management

Saunas and hot tubs can provide a mild form of cardiovascular exercise due to the body working harder in a hot environment, which could potentially assist in weight management as part of a balanced lifestyle.

It's important to note that any weight loss primarily comes from water loss due to sweating and is quickly regained once you rehydrate. Therefore, while they can support a weight management program, they should not be relied upon as a primary method for weight loss.

Read more here: Hot Tub Benefits Weight Loss: Unpacking the Facts

Shared Potential Risks and Precautions 

While hot tubs and saunas provide numerous health benefits, they also come with potential risks that users should be aware of to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some common potential risks and precautions associated with both:

  1. Risk of Overheating and Dehydration: Staying in a hot environment for prolonged periods can lead to overheating, potentially resulting in heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Both conditions can cause dizziness, nausea, and even loss of consciousness in severe cases. The intense heat can also cause the body to lose water quickly, leading to dehydration. Always hydrate before and after using a hot tub or sauna, and limit the duration of your sessions. If you start to feel unwell, exit the hot environment immediately.
  2. Concerns for Specific Groups: Certain individuals need to be extra cautious with hot tub and sauna use. Pregnant women are advised to avoid or limit their usage due to potential risks to the fetus. People with cardiovascular conditions should also take caution as the heat can stress the heart more. Individuals with low blood pressure might experience dizziness or fainting due to heat-induced changes in their blood pressure. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting a new heat therapy regimen if you fall into one of these groups or have other health concerns.
  3. Cleanliness and Maintenance: Hot tubs and saunas require regular cleaning and maintenance to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria or mold. Always ensure that the facilities are well-maintained and clean before using them, especially the hot tub filters.
  4. Alcohol Consumption: Avoid using a hot tub or sauna while or after consuming alcohol. Alcohol can amplify the risk of dehydration and overheating and impair your ability to perceive these risks.
  5. Medications: Some medications may interact with heat exposure, potentially leading to adverse effects. If you're on any medications, consult with your doctor about potential risks associated with hot tub and sauna use.
  6. Supervision: Never use a hot tub or sauna alone. Always ensure someone else is present or aware of your activity in case of an emergency.

By considering these precautions and potential risks, you can ensure a safe and beneficial hot tub or sauna experience. Listening to your body and avoiding pushing beyond your comfort limits is crucial. Your well-being is of utmost importance.

Unique Therapies: Differences Between Hot Tubs and Saunas 

While hot tubs and saunas have a wide variety of common benefits, some differentiate them, so if you have specific needs from heat therapy, you might decide to use one over the other. In this section, we will discuss the difference in terms of health benefits between the two, and you will also learn about how hot tubs and saunas work, which will help you better understand what makes them unique.

Operational Differences: How Hot Tubs and Saunas Work

Features Hot Tubs Saunas
Heating Method Heated water Traditional: Heated air; infrared; direct body heating
Typical Temperature 100-104°F (38-40°C) Traditional: 150-195°F (65-90°C); Infrared: 120-140°F (49-60°C)
Environment Warm and buoyant, often with massaging water jets Dry or humid heat, depending on type
Primary Therapeutic Factor Hydrotherapy (heat + water movement) Intense heat exposure
Impact of Gravity Reduced due to water's buoyancy Normal
Humidity High due to heated water Varies (low in infrared saunas; high in traditional saunas with water added to rocks)
Typical Session Length Typically 15-30 minutes, but can vary based on individual tolerance and preference Traditional: 5-20 minutes; Infrared: 10-30 minutes; varies by individual tolerance
Unique Health Considerations Can offer relief from joint/muscle pain due to water's buoyancy and pressure; possible lower blood sugar benefits Can promote better lung function due to warmed airways; potential enhanced insulin sensitivity
Maintenance Regular cleaning and water chemical balance necessary Minimal, mostly cleaning; traditional saunas may need new rocks periodically
Cost (initial and ongoing) Can be expensive to buy and install; ongoing costs include water, electricity, and maintenance Varies widely, but generally cheaper than hot tubs; ongoing costs include electricity (lower for infrared saunas) and maintenance
Space Requirement Significant outdoor or indoor space needed Can be compact, especially infrared models; suitable for indoor use

5 Unique Hot Tub Benefits for Health

Regardless of the hot tub model you are using, you can benefit from the unique advantages hot tubs come with compared to saunas:

1. Hydrotherapy

One of the primary unique benefits of hot tubs is hydrotherapy. By combining the therapeutic properties of heated water, buoyancy, and water movement or pressure, hydrotherapy can offer a range of health benefits. These include relief for joint pain and arthritis, aiding in muscle recovery, and easing stiffness in the body. The massaging effect of the jets can target specific areas of the body, promoting relaxation and improving flexibility.

2. Lower Blood Sugar

Emerging studies suggest that regular hot tub use can contribute to lower blood sugar levels, potentially beneficial for individuals managing type 2 diabetes. The heat exposure is believed to increase blood flow and mimic some effects of physical exercise, which plays a role in regulating blood sugar levels. These findings are preliminary, and individuals with diabetes should consult with their healthcare providers before starting hot tub therapy.

3. Alleviation of Fibromyalgia Symptoms

People suffering from fibromyalgia—a condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues—may find significant relief from regular hot tub use. The warm water can help reduce pain and stiffness, while the buoyancy allows for gentle exercises to increase mobility and strength. Furthermore, the relaxation and improved sleep quality associated with hot tub use can help manage fibromyalgia symptoms.

4. Enhanced Bone Health

The buoyancy provided by the water in a hot tub can create an excellent low-impact environment for gentle exercises. This can particularly benefit those with osteoporosis or other bone and joint issues. Under the water's buoyant effect, muscles and joints can be strengthened and conditioned with a reduced risk of injury, offering a safe way to enhance bone health.

5. Improved Digestion

Regular hot tub use can potentially improve digestion. The mechanism behind this benefit is two-fold: First, the stress reduction associated with hot tub use can contribute to better gut health, as prolonged stress has been linked with various digestive problems. Second, the heat from the tub promotes increased circulation, including blood flow to the digestive system, which may improve overall digestion efficiency.

As always, it's important to remember that while hot tubs offer these unique health benefits, they should be used responsibly. Overuse or misuse can lead to potential health risks, such as overheating or skin infections. Therefore, it's recommended to adhere to proper maintenance protocols and consult with a healthcare provider before starting a new regimen with hot tub use.

Read more here: 13 Amazing Hot Tub Benefits: Best Advice from Experts

5 Unique Health Benefits of Saunas

Whether you are using an indoor sauna or an outdoor sauna, their unique benefits don't differ much, but they do compare to hot tubs:

1. Improved Lung Function

Sauna use has demonstrated potential benefits for those with asthma and other chronic lung diseases. The dry, warm air in a sauna can help to warm the airways, reduce congestion, and promote improved overall lung function. As a result, individuals with respiratory conditions may experience fewer symptoms and improved breathing. It's worth noting that anyone with a chronic lung condition should consult with a healthcare provider before beginning a sauna regimen.

2. Enhanced Insulin Sensitivity

Regular sauna use may improve insulin sensitivity, which is crucial in managing or preventing type 2 diabetes. The heat stress experienced in a sauna can promote a healthier body composition by reducing visceral fat, which is linked to insulin resistance. Improved insulin sensitivity means your body can better regulate blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of diabetes-related complications.

3. Longevity

Some observational studies have suggested a correlation between frequent sauna use and a reduced risk of premature death. While more research is needed to establish a causal link firmly, these findings suggest potential benefits for longevity. Sauna use is thought to enhance cardiovascular function, reduce inflammation, and improve overall well-being, all factors contributing to a longer, healthier life.

4. Relief from Chronic Fatigue and Pain Syndrome

For individuals suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic pain conditions, sauna therapy may provide significant relief. The heat stress induced by sauna use can lead to various physiological responses, including the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. This can help reduce the perception of pain and induce feelings of relaxation and well-being, which can be particularly beneficial for those managing chronic conditions.

5. Improved Endurance

Athletes and fitness enthusiasts may find that regular sauna use enhances athletic performance by improving heat acclimation. Increased heat tolerance can improve endurance, as it helps the body maintain optimal function even under high temperatures, a common challenge during long-distance races or prolonged workouts.

As with all wellness practices, using saunas safely and responsibly is crucial. Sauna use should be accompanied by proper hydration and rest periods, and individuals with certain health conditions should consult their healthcare providers before adding sauna sessions to their wellness routine.

Unique Drawbacks and Risks Associated with Each

While hot tubs and saunas offer a range of health benefits, it's essential to be aware of the unique drawbacks and risks associated with each. Understanding these potential risks can help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Hot Tubs – Potential for Bacterial Infections

Hot tubs require proper maintenance and regular cleaning to prevent the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. If not adequately sanitized and treated with appropriate chemicals, hot tubs can become breeding grounds for harmful bacteria, such as Legionella or Pseudomonas. These bacteria can cause infections, including hot tub folliculitis (a skin infection) or even more severe respiratory infections. 

To mitigate these risks, it's crucial to maintain proper water chemistry, regularly clean the tub, and follow recommended maintenance guidelines.

Read more here: Bromine vs. Chlorine for Hot Tubs: Discover The Best Choice

Saunas – Risk of Heat Exhaustion

Saunas expose the body to high temperatures, which can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion. Prolonged exposure to intense heat without adequate hydration and rest can overwhelm the body's cooling mechanisms, leading to symptoms like dizziness, nausea, weakness, and even fainting. 

To prevent heat exhaustion in saunas, it's important to limit session durations, stay hydrated, and take breaks to cool down if necessary. It's especially critical for individuals with underlying health conditions or those who are more sensitive to heat to exercise caution and consult their healthcare provider before using a sauna.

Hot tubs and saunas come with inherent risks, but these can be mitigated through proper usage, maintenance, and following safety guidelines. Regular cleaning and maintenance, with responsible heat exposure and hydration practices, can help minimize potential drawbacks and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in hot tubs and saunas.

How O-Care Enhances Your Hot Bathing Experience

If you compare bathing in a hot tub with using a sauna, some inconveniences include unpleasant chlorine smell, chemical allergies, and skin issues. O-Care can help you enjoy a hot tub bath without these issues:

  • Reduce The Amount Of Chemicals Needed: With O-Care, you can reduce reliance on harsh chemicals, optimize the effectiveness of sanitizers, and save time and money. It's a healthier and more sustainable approach to water treatment.
  • Enjoy Soft And Odorless Water: Our formula combats hard water issues, like dry skin and unpleasant odors. Transform your water into a gentle, soothing experience. Say goodbye to discomfort and enjoy luxuriously soft water that refreshes your skin.
  • Improves Your Skin: Our product goes beyond water treatment to enhance your natural beauty. With our unique formula, your water chemistry is balanced, resulting in softer, supple skin. 


In conclusion, the comparative study of hot tubs and saunas reveals the remarkable health benefits of both heat therapy options. Whether you choose to indulge in the warm, buoyant environment of a hot tub or immerse yourself in the intense heat of a sauna, you can experience stress relief, improved sleep, pain reduction, enhanced circulation, detoxification, and numerous other advantages. 

While they share many similarities in terms of health benefits, it's important to consider the unique therapeutic properties and potential risks associated with each. By making an informed decision based on personal preferences, health considerations, and available resources, you can select the option that aligns best with your well-being goals. 

Here is some extra help for enhancing your hot tub bathing experience:

  1. Download the O-Care app for weekly maintenance and step-by-step problem-solving.
  2. Use our online water assistant to diagnose your water quality issues.
  3. This article covers more situations if the app didn't help solve your problem.
  4. I need to solve an underlying contamination issue in my hot tub; maybe it's biofilm?
  5. How to avoid future problems and keep your hot tub clean?
  6. What kind of sanitizers can I choose from?
  7. What is the best way to maintain my hot tub water?
  8. How to test the water in my hot tub?


Are there any age restrictions for using hot tubs or saunas? 

Age restrictions for using hot tubs or saunas may vary based on local regulations and facility guidelines. These restrictions are typically put in place to ensure the safety of individuals, particularly young children, who may be more susceptible to heat-related issues. 

Following the manufacturer's recommendations and any posted age restrictions at the facility you visit is important. Supervision by a responsible adult is often required for children using hot tubs or saunas to prevent accidents or improper usage.

Are there any skin issues that do not like hot tubs or saunas?

Yes, there are some skin issues that may not react well to hot tubs or saunas. Conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and other sensitive skin conditions may be aggravated by the high heat and humidity in these environments. 

The intense heat can cause excessive sweating, leading to dehydration and potential irritation of already sensitive skin. Individuals with open wounds, cuts, or infections should avoid hot tubs and saunas as the warm and moist conditions can increase the risk of infection. If you have any pre-existing skin conditions or concerns, it's best to consult with a dermatologist before using hot tubs or saunas to ensure it's safe for your skin.

What should I do if I feel lightheaded or unwell while using a hot tub or sauna? 

If you start to feel lightheaded, dizzy, or unwell while using a hot tub or sauna, it is important to take immediate action to ensure your safety. Exit the hot tub or sauna promptly and move to an area with fresh air or a cooler environment. Sitting or lying down can help alleviate symptoms. Rehydrate by drinking cool water to replenish any fluids lost due to sweating. 

If you continue to feel unwell or if symptoms persist or worsen, it is advisable to seek medical attention. Listening to your body's signals and prioritizing your well-being is important. If in doubt, consult with a healthcare professional for appropriate guidance based on your specific condition and symptoms.