Have you ever wondered what makes your body feel warm, even on a cloudy day? What about the heat your body emits that can be felt when you give a friend a hug? Or, have you stopped to think about what the heat our sun produces is made of? Well, we have, and the answer to these questions is infrared! Infrared is light or energy that cannot be seen, but it is felt as heat. When we think about light, a picture of the sun, a lamp or a light bulb may pop into our heads, but visible light is just a small portion of the light energy all around us. We experience small amounts of this safe, natural and effective heat nearly every day.
The spectrum of light is called the electromagnetic spectrum and it includes light radiation, such as radio waves, microwaves, infrared, ultraviolet, x-ray and gamma rays. Yes, we said radiation, and not all radiation is bad! Radiation is the release of energy in the form of moving waves or streaming particles. This is a naturally occurring process and because the earth itself emits radiation, all living things on the planet do as well.
The term infrared is defined as the portion of the invisible spectrum that is touching the red end of the visible spectrum (that we can see) and contains electromagnetic radiation of wavelengths ranging from 800nm to 1mm. What is the connection between heat and light? Scientists confirm everything in our universe that is warm also gives off light. Examples include the stars, planets and people. Experts refer to this concept as blackbody radiation and Cool Cosmos says “Every object in the Universe, even one that is as black as a lump of charcoal, will give off this light. Where this light falls in the spectrum, however, depends on the temperature of the object.” Thus, the reason our sun is so bright and people, though they do produce infrared heat, do not show a visible glow to the naked eye.
How Infrared Heat was Discovered
A British astronomer and German composer, Sir William Herschel began studying the planets and stars in the 1700’s and he eventually began to build reflecting telescopes. In the 1800’s while he used colored filters to observe sunlight passing through prisms Herschel discovered infrared by testing the individual temperatures of each color and measuring the temperature just beyond the red portion of the spectrum (where no sunlight was visible). During this process, he found the infrared region’s temperature was the highest of all. Thus, leading to the discovery that there is light we cannot see with our eyes and that infrared that shows itself in the form of heat. Fun fact, Herschel also discovered the planet Uranus.
Shortly after Hershel’s findings, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, an American surgeon, scientist and proponent of holistic health treatments opened what we would call a wellness center with a focus on nutrition, exercise and holistic health care. Although he was not the creator, it was during this time Dr. Kellogg began using horizontal cabinets for his patients to sit in and submerge their bodies in heat to produce sweat and promote healing. He later went on to establish the American Medical Missionary College, which merged with Illinois State University in the 1900’s.
Types of Infrared Heat
There are three types or wavelengths of infrared heat, our suns output is made up of a mixture of them, but the human body emits far infrared specifically.
- Near Infrared is the shortest wavelength and it sits right next to red light on the electromagnetic spectrum. This wavelength penetrates our epidermis.
- Mid Infrared is the medium wavelength penetrating a bit deeper to assist the body with increased circulation.
- Far Infrared is the longest wavelength and instead of warming the air around the body heats the body directly. This wavelength penetrates deeply into the body allowing it to provide the benefits we’re about to share!
Bountiful Benefits of Infrared
People all over the world participate in weekly infrared sessions and find they notice multiple benefits during and after each session.
Pain Relief. One of infrareds magic powers is increasing blood flow to assist with faster healing or recovery. Infrared also penetrates the body approximately 1.5 inches to act on irritated nerve endings almost immediately, calming them which can result in up to 48 hours of relief. Countless studies show that this magical heat can assist with chronic pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, onset muscle soreness and relief between workouts.
Weight Loss. Because infrared sessions can safely expose the body to temperatures up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit and heat makes us sweat, we are able to burn calories and release fats and toxins through our sweat glands during a 50-60 minute exposure. Infrared sessions can act as a passive form of cardiovascular exercise, even astronauts use it on long flights to space!
Skin Rejuvenation. If your skincare goals include antiaging, toning, tightening and cellulite reduction infrared heat can help! Again, the rise in blood flow during a session makes a difference in the rejuvenation of skin because it brings oxygen and nutrients to tissues and cells.
Detoxification. Humans have 2 million+ sweat glands and infrared can activate them promoting heavy toxin release. During immersion, the infrared waves pass through the water molecules in our body, vibrating them until they burst and are carried out in sweat. This means an infrared session can rid your body of more than just water! The toxins you lose during an infrared session will not be replaced upon rehydration, making infrared an essential tool for healthy detoxification.
Relaxation is just as important to the human body as the other benefits listed above. While relaxing in the warmth of infrared heat can induce relaxation, it actually affects and lowers cortisol (the fight or flight hormone) levels to leave the user with a sense of well-being and calm.
So, to review, what is infrared heat? It is a naturally occurring part of the electromagnetic or light spectrum that shows itself as warmth. The benefits infrared can provide are vast and it is effective because it penetrates the body with the same type of far infrared heat the body itself produces. Ready to immerse yourself in infrared heat and experience firsthand how it works?
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- “What Is Infrared?”. Cool Cosmos. N.p., 2016. Web.