With the regular use of a far-infrared sauna, people with type II diabetes showed significant improvements in overall quality of life, including stress and fatigue levels, physical health, general health and social functioning, according to recent research.

The study, “The effects of repeated thermal therapy on quality of life in patients with type II diabetes mellitus,” involved 15 people diagnosed with type II diabetes. Twelve of the subjects were male and three were female, ranging in age from 50 to 75 years, with an average age of about 66 years.

These participants attended 20-minute sauna sessions three times a week for three months. The study aimed to determine if far-infrared sauna sessions would have a beneficial effect on mental and physical quality of life in people with type II diabetes.

Baseline measurements were taken within one week prior to the start of these sessions, and the post-intervention measurements were taken between one and three days after the final sauna session.

One of the main measurements for this study was the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short Form Health Survey Version 2. According to the study’s authors, this survey is a widely used standard for assessing quality of life. The other evaluation tool employed by the researchers was a zero-to-10 visual analog scale, used to assess the participants’ subjective levels of stress, fatigue, pain and well-being.

Results of the research revealed significant improvements in stress, fatigue, physical health, general health and social functioning among the diabetes patients who received the thermal therapy.

The study’s authors also note the research relied on outpatients as subjects, which often leads to lower completion rates. However, the completion rate for this study was 75 percent, which they deemed “significantly better than one would expect to see regarding the successful uptake of lifestyle change.”

“Our results suggest that infrared sauna use improves quality of life in type II diabetics,” state the study’s authors. “Further, uptake of infrared saunas as a therapeutic modality in type II diabetes is greater than the uptake of standard lifestyle interventions.

“The combination of favorable compliance/adherence, as well as effectiveness in improving quality of life,” they continued, “makes infrared sauna therapy an attractive complementary option in the treatment of type II diabetes.”

Authors: Richard Beever.

Sources: Department of Family Medicine, University of British Columbia, Canada. Originally published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (June 2010) 16 (6): 677-81.