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My bodybugg gadget actually seems to think that I'm burning more calories when I'm in the sauna, but I'm kinda skeptical. Does sauna time really accomplish anything?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

I would be skeptical as well. Although there may be an increased metabolic load to cool the body, it seems to me that the readings are more likely to be related to measurement error of the Bodybugg.

According to the company, the Bodybugg contains four sensors:

  1. Accelerometer
  2. Heat Flux (amount of heat being dissipated by the body)
  3. Galvanic Skin Response (skin conductivity)
  4. Skin Temperature

The heat flux and skin temperature sensors are likely calibrated for room temperature and could be thrown off by the relatively high ambient temperature of a sauna. The GSR sensor could be affected by the humidity in the sauna (wet skin is more conductive than dry skin).

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Are you sure about burning fewer calories in a sauna? The ideal body temperature is 98F, and the human body will work rather hard to stay as close to that as possible. It strikes me that it would be far less difficult to warm oneself from ~70F ambient temperature to 98F internal than it would be to cool oneself from ~150F (or more!) ambient temperature to 98F internal. I'd also be skeptical about burning mass calories simply by being in a sauna, but even the act of sweating has metabolic processes associated with it. – tmesser May 16 '11 at 22:26
@YYY good point, I think the heart rate does increase in order to circulate blood faster to cool down. I'm not sure how much this or sweating would translate to in terms of actual calories burned... I don't think that affects the error vectors for the heat-related sensors above, but my first paragraph probably needs to be edited. – Greg May 16 '11 at 22:49
While working out requires a higher heart rate, that doesn't necessarily mean that a higher heart rate means you're working out! Sure you'll burn some additional calories, while sitting in the sauna, but it won't be anything significant unless you work out in it. – Ivo Flipse May 16 '11 at 23:01

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