Health: This Winter, Try Summer in a Box

Published: December 1, 2015

Story by Doug Barker

Photos by Gabe Green

Sherry Sinclair lives on the edge of the forest — right on the edge. Back door to trailhead from her home in Montesano is maybe 30 paces and Sherry takes her dog, Wiley, on the trail, rain or shine. When it’s cold out, Wiley goes in the door and walks straight to the sauna when they get home.

“He demands it when we come back after a wet hike.”

Sherry and her husband Marty Sitton purchased an infr ared sauna for their home several years ago. In the fall and winter it gets used almost every day.

Infrared saunas use infrared light that heats one’s body and promotes a full sweat, but without the nostril burning dry heat of traditional saunas that heat the air inside.

Sinclair, who teaches yoga, extolls what she sees as significant health benefits. It helps remove toxins from one’s body, alleviates some aches and pains, gives her a sense of clarity, helps her sleep and maybe most importantly for people living in the Pacific Northwest, it offers a bone deep warmth that takes away the winter chill. If someone is going to a tanning booth for that, the sauna is a much healthier alternative, she said.

(Gabe Green | The Daily World) Sheri and her dog often sit and enjoy the sauna together.

(Gabe Green | The Daily World)
Sheri and her dog often sit and enjoy the sauna together.

She stays in for about 30 minutes and the temperature usually reaches a bit above 120. She brings water in the sauna for Wiley and kicks him out if he pants, but he doesn’t like to go.

The list of health claims cited by companies that make the saunas is long, many of them backed up by various studies. A bit of advice, do your own research. There’s a hoard of information on the Web.

Sherry and Marty paid about $2,500 for their 2-person sauna 10 years ago. It was guaranteed for life and has been nearly trouble free.

It was shipped to their home in pieces and they put it together themselves. Dealing with the packaging was more work than the assembly, Sherry recalls. The cedar-lined walls just buckled together with metal clasps. Their model didn’t require any special wiring and plugs into a regular wall socket.

The same company today sells two-person saunas ranging from $2,999 to $4,699, depending on materials (cedar or sitka spruce) and other design factors. At other companies, prices start as low as $1,000.

For Sherry, there’s a value in simply knowing that she’s spending those 30 minutes on self care, but “making the long winter more tolerable” is its own kind of self care, she says.