Sauna vs. Hot Tub: Complete Guide & Health Overview

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When it comes to creating your own home wellness retreat or choosing the right recovery protocol, two prominent features often come to mind: the sauna or hot tub.

Both options offer unique benefits, yet they each have their distinct characteristics.

In this post, we dive deep into the heated debate of sauna vs hot tub, helping you make an informed decision for your health and relaxation needs.

Let’s jump into it!

Sauna vs. Hot Tub: Which One is Right for You?

Sauna or Hot Tub Robe

Saunas and hot tubs offer different experiences and benefits, but choosing between the two depends on your specific needs and preferences.

Do you value the soothing feeling of hot water on your skin, or do you prefer the dry heat of a sauna?

Your decision might also depend on your health and wellness objectives, the available space in your home, and your budget.

Related: Joe Rogan Sauna: Type, Routine, & Benefits

Similarities And Differences Between Sauna and Hot Tub

SaunaHot Tub
FunctionUses heat (either infrared or traditional) to create a hot, dry environment.Uses heated water to create a warm, wet environment.
Health BenefitsPromotes detoxification, improves cardiovascular health, aids in muscle recovery, enhances mood.Alleviates muscle and joint pain, promotes relaxation, improves sleep, may improve cardiovascular health.
InstallationRequires dedicated space; can be indoors or outdoors.Requires a water connection; mostly outdoors.
MaintenanceRequires less maintenance, with periodic cleaning and inspection of the heater.Requires frequent water treatment and filter changes.

What are the Benefits of a Sauna?

Barrel Sauna Inside

Saunas, with their centuries-old tradition, have been scientifically proven to offer a plethora of health benefits, making them a worthy addition to any performance optimization regimen.

1. Detoxification

Saunas generate intense heat, which elevates the body’s core temperature and triggers profuse sweating.

According to a 2012 study in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, this sweating process helps the body expel harmful toxins, including heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and cadmium.

This detoxification process leaves you feeling cleansed and rejuvenated.

Related: Why Don’t I Sweat in the Sauna?

2. Cardiovascular Health

Sauna vs Hot Tub Graphic

A 2018 report published in Mayo Clinic reviewed data linking Finnish sauna usage and its effects on cardiovascular outcomes.

The literature reviewed studies with over 1,000 participants and found that sauna use was linked to reduced risks of fatal cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.

Related: Andrew Huberman Sauna: Complete Guide

3. Relaxation and Stress Relief

Saunas stimulate the production of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, which induce a state of tranquility and happiness.

A study included in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine review found that sauna sessions reduced stress and anxiety levels in participants in a statistically significant manner.

Related: Does Sauna Help Bloating?

4. Improved Sleep

The calming heat of the sauna not only helps relax your body but also sets the stage for deeper, more restful sleep.

An online 71-item questionnaire from 2016 to 2017 found that 83.5% of respondents reported improved sleep quality, particularly in individuals with sleep disorders.

5. Muscle Recovery

Saunas help increase blood circulation, delivering nutrient-rich blood to tired and strained muscles, and promoting faster recovery.

A study in SpringerPlus (2015) found that sauna bathing significantly reduced delayed onset muscle soreness and improved recovery in endurance athletes.

Related: Creatine and Sauna: Complete Guide

What are the Benefits of a Hot Tub?

Hot Tub Outdoors

While different in their approach, hot tubs offer their own set of performance-enhancing benefits:

1. Muscle and Joint Pain Relief

The buoyancy of the warm water in a hot tub alleviates pressure on joints and muscles, making it an excellent therapy for those with arthritis or sports injuries.

A 2014 review in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences reported improvements in pain and function among arthritis patients who utilized hydrotherapy.

2. Stress Relief

Hot tubs, through warm water therapy or hydrotherapy, can stimulate the body’s natural relaxation response.

A 2018 study in the International Journal of Biometeorology found that hydrotherapy reduced cortisol levels (the body’s stress hormone) and boosted mood states.

3. Improved Sleep

Just like saunas, hot tubs can help prepare your body for a good night’s sleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, soaking in hot water before bed can ease the transition into a deeper sleep by raising your body temperature and then rapidly cooling it upon exiting the tub.

4. Social Interaction

Beyond physical benefits, hot tubs offer an opportunity for social interaction, contributing to overall mental well-being.

This social aspect can enhance mood, reduce feelings of isolation, and foster connections, all of which are integral to optimized performance.

5. Potential Cardiovascular Health Improvement

Immersion in hot water can induce heart-healthy effects similar to light exercise.

A 2018 study in the Journal of Physiology showed that hot tub bathing increased heart rate and lowered blood pressure, suggesting a potential role in promoting cardiovascular health.

Hot Tub vs. Sauna For Detox

Research suggests that while both hot tubs and saunas are effective in facilitating detoxification, saunas may have an edge due to the intense sweating they induce.

Saunas, particularly the dry heat version, encourage profuse sweating – a natural mechanism for expelling toxins and impurities from the body.

That being said, detoxification is still not a clearly defined scientific term.

One meta-study was unable to isolate statistically significant differences in blood serum levels between sauna bathers and non-bathers.

However, the study acknowledged that self-reported benefits of sauna-goers, such as fewer sick days, significantly outpaced the control group.

So, the bottom line is that science is still catching up on its understanding of detoxification.

Deciding Factors Between Hot Tub and Sauna

Choosing between a sauna vs. hot tub isn’t always easy.

The decision changes significantly if you’re considering buying a sauna or hot tub for your home or business, rather than simply using one at a gym or spa.

To aid your decision-making process, here are some key factors you should consider.

Personal Preferences and Health Needs

What are your wellness goals?

If you’re primarily looking for detoxification, enhanced cardiovascular health, or improved sleep, a sauna may be a preferable choice given its powerful, dry heat and significant health benefits.

On the other hand, if you’re seeking relief from muscle or joint pain, or looking for a relaxation tool that can also serve as a social centerpiece, a hot tub might be the right choice.

Space Availability and Location

The available space in your home will significantly influence your decision.

Saunas can fit in a relatively smaller area and can be placed either indoors or outdoors.

In contrast, hot tubs typically require more space and are usually installed outdoors due to the need for water drainage and ventilation.


Cost is another crucial deciding factor.

Typically, both saunas and hot tubs can be a significant investment, but the costs vary widely depending on the type, size, and features of the unit.

Saunas can range from a few hundred dollars for a portable model to several thousand for an outdoor, wood-fired unit.

Hot tubs, on the other hand, usually start in the low thousands and can go up to tens of thousands for high-end models.

Make sure to take into account not just the initial investment, but also the ongoing costs of maintenance, repairs, and energy usage.


While both require regular maintenance, hot tubs generally require more due to the need for constant water treatment to keep the water clean and safe.

Saunas, particularly infrared models, require less maintenance, often limited to periodic cleaning and occasional checks of the heating element.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Which is better for you a hot tub or a sauna?

The answer depends on your specific needs and health conditions.

Saunas can offer significant detoxification benefits and enhance cardiovascular health, while hot tubs are particularly effective for soothing muscle and joint pain.

Why is a sauna better than a hot tub?

Saunas may offer more potent detoxification benefits, thanks to the sweating process.

They generally require less maintenance than hot tubs. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean saunas are better—just different.

Does a hot bath have the same health benefits as a sauna?

While a hot bath can offer some similar benefits, such as relaxation and improved sleep, it does not provide the same level of heat exposure as a sauna.

A sauna may offer more significant benefits in terms of detoxification and cardiovascular health.

What is the downside of saunas?

While saunas offer many benefits, they may not be suitable for everyone.

People with certain health conditions, such as low blood pressure or certain heart conditions, should consult a doctor before using a sauna.

Additionally, they can cause dehydration if not used properly.

Does a hot tub detox you?

While hot tubs can promote sweating—a natural detoxification process—they are not as effective as saunas for this purpose.

Nonetheless, they can still aid in overall relaxation and well-being.

Medical Advice Disclaimer


The information, including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website, are for informational purposes only.

No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

About the Author

Drew Wilkins is a fitness and nutrition expert with a Master's in Biokinesiology (emphasis in Sports Science) from the University of Southern California and over a decade of experience as a personal trainer, nutrition consultant, and wellness coach. An avid surfer and soccer player, he brings a unique perspective to his research, advocating for a balanced approach to health that includes physical fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being.

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