Sweat it out

Sweating is said to be good for not just your skin, but also to help your body maintain good health. Priya Kulasagaran finds out what it is like to turn up the heat to rejuvenate at the Sweatspa.

Given the sweltering heat of this country at any given time, it may seem strange to pay to sweat at a spa. Sweatspa founder Sabrina Tang, however, believes that a good sweating session can go a long way for one’s health.

“When I had a fever as a child, I remember being made to wrap myself up in blanket and lie down in a room without the fan on,” says Tang, at her spa outlet at the Atria Shopping Gallery in Damansara Jaya. “The next day, I’d wake up feeling better — just from sweating it all out! Our skin is also constantly exposed to all sorts of contaminants that are in the air, everywhere we go. So sweating is essential in flushing all these toxins out.”

She adds that compared to traditional saunas, Sweatspa uses far infrared rays (FIR) instead. “The thing about traditional saunas, is that they heat up the air in the room. This is why you feel suffocated if you are in the sauna for too long. FIR saunas heat up the body from within, so we can do it at a lower temperature as well. Our machines are also have next to zero electromagnetic waves (EMF), so that’s an added safety as well,” says Tang.

Tangs own journey to becoming an advocate for sweating well arose from personal experience. A former pharmaceutical executive, she found herself looking for ways improve her health six years ago.

“I was rather overweight, and was feeling poorly as a result — not only was I feeling frustrated at not being able to fit into my clothes, but I was also tired all the time,” she shares My husband too had various health issues, including high blood pressure and he was obese. He was popping a small mound of pills every day. The final wake up call came when I was diagnosed with diabetes. At the time, I was thinking, ‘Oh no, I don’t want to be taking the same pills I used to help drug companies sell to doctors’! I felt I had to do something.”

It was around then that she heard of the far infrared (FIR) sauna at a medical talk. “I am the kind of person who believes in evidence and it is quite impossible to sell me anything based on just talk. So I began doing my own research and learnt of the various positive results. I eventually bought one for my home,” she says.

Several months after using it, Tang recalls noticing some tangible results; for one, she felt a lot more energetic, and had managed to lose some weight as she could now get out and exercise more. “I used to have pigmentation problems with my skin. After using it, my skin started looking more supple and smooth; so I really believe that it works,” she adds.

She then opened Sweatspa’s first outlet in Bangsar Shopping Centre, about four years ago. While this outlet has since closed as its lease was up, Sweatspa currently has two outlets; one in Atria Shopping Gallery, and the other at Great Eastern Mall in Ampang. “Our customers have followed us, as many of them have been with us from the start, and they have been the ones promoting us through word of mouth. I think that just like me, they can see the benefits for themselves. They also find it convenient; you can come in for a session during your lunch hour, and because the sweat isn’t the same sticky sort you get from other types of saunas, you can quickly wipe off it off with towels,” says Tang.

Sweating for health

“My dear, you must to get more exercise,” Tang kindly admonishes me as she gives me a pre-sauna body analysis. The analysis, which includes body composition, muscle-fat and obesity status, was hardly surprising for someone who is aware of her own unhealthiness. What was surprising, was that my left leg was slightly weaker than the right, as measured my the muscle mass in both areas.

I was then ushered into a private room which housed a wood sauna cabin. The space of the room, and indeed the cabin itself, was a lot more sizeable than I had expected – I have stayed in smaller hotel rooms. For those who might feel bored during their 40-minute session, the room also comes with a television and magazines. I chose to arm myself with a book, and enjoy the peace of being without my smartphone.

After stripping down and wrapping myself up in a towel, I waited for the heat to crank up. As the heat came in waves, I did not feel like I was being baked. About 15 minutes into the session, I could feel myself starting to sweat; just before the timer went off, I realised I had perspired buckets.

I was at first suspicious when Tang told me that a shower was hardly needed after the session. Instead, I was given a refreshing jolt post-sauna by way of an icy cold towel to wipe down with, along with a glass of water. I have to admit that after cooling off, there was no stickiness. After a quick smell check to make sure, I was comfortable about going about my day.

Sweatspa typically that recommends its customers undergo a sweating session between two to three times a week in the early stages. Tang does caution against pregnant women and those who have consumed alcohol within the last six hours to use the spa. “The body’s blood vessels will dilate inside the spa, so those under the influence of alcohol may find that it gets to their head much faster,” she explains.

She adds that while one of the side-benefits customers report is losing weight and gaining muscle, the spa is no replacement for a healthy diet and an active lifestyle. “Muscles need to be toned, and that is done through proper exercise,” she says. “What we can give you is a chance to revitalise yourself, and ease aches and pains, so you can go on to take measures to improve your health.”

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