It’s the latest weight-loss ‘miracle’ using light therapy and infrared heat – but can you REALLY burn 250 calories without lifting a finger?
Twice the benefit, half the time. That’s a wellness promise any time-pressed woman would pay good money for.
It’s a mantra on the screen before my eyes as, dressed only in shorts and a sports bra and with a resistance band in each hand, I take up position in the Heat by 111Cryo pod — ready to work out in Saharan temperatures of up to 90c.
This is the latest high-tech way of boosting metabolism and achieving a skin glow; it’s only been in the UK for a week, and already bookings are flooding in for the 15 and 30-minute sessions.
With its clam-shell lid studded with crystals, white mattress and jewel-coloured lights, it looks like something a Hollywood sci-fi director might send you to Mars in. In fact, it’s a ‘thermotherapy’ treatment deploying two types of heat — dynamic dry heat and infrared radiant heat — to access a host of purported wellness and weight-loss benefits.
They include relieving tension and inflammation in the muscles, improving post-exercise recovery, soothing joint pain, boosting the lymphatic system and detoxing. And that’s before you’ve added one of the optional yoga and HIIT (High- Intensity Interval Training) programmes, which you can do lying in the pod.
My ‘heat technician’ tells me the heat will help stimulate heart rate and blood flow — essentially my metabolism. ‘The effect on your cardiovascular system is like going for a brisk walk,’ he says. ‘It can be a way of training your circulatory system while you are doing nothing.’
The manufacturer claims you can burn up to 600 calories during a full-on 60-minute session and in the hours afterwards as your metabolism remains on a high, though realistically the average calorie drop is between 150 and 250 in half an hour of medium to light heat.
Your muscles warm up quickly because of the infrared heat, a form of harmless radiation popular in hot yoga classes, which penetrates 1.5 inches below the skin. Meanwhile, 25 ‘light modules’ deliver LED light — a collagen-boosting and skin-healing beauty treatment beloved of aestheticians — to the body.
Cooling face fans waft a choice of aromatherapy blends from ‘Vigor’ to ‘Cleanse’, and the mattress vibrates like a Power Plate to give the effect of a massage. It’s a sauna with benefits, not least the fact you can do it all without anyone else’s sweaty body invading your space.
A touch-screen allows you to personalise your session according to your wellness goals. The 22 programmes range from ‘Beauty Care’ to ‘Power Nap’, with varying heat, intensities of massage and LED light, but it’s the fitness ones I’m interested in. I fill in a medical form to check I’m not pregnant and don’t have heart problems, and choose five minutes of yoga and core, followed by eight minutes of HIIT on the ‘high hyperthermic’ programme — as hot as it gets at 90c.
The screen asks me to pick an LED light setting: red for skin firmness, blue for acne zapping, amber for skin soothing, calming green to tackle pigmentation and sun damage, or a combination.
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I choose red, which is the most popular. I set the massage function to ‘high’ and enter my weight so the pod can calculate my total calorie burn. The technician closes the pod before he steps outside.
The air warms up as my yoga session begins, and an image of a beach pops on my screen with the words ‘honour your body and mind, maintain a minimum of six inches from the shell, relax and begin’. My first move appears as a diagram, the calming yoga ‘sitkari breath’, in through the mouth and out through the nose — a good place to start as I’m feeling a little claustrophobic. I move on to shoulder shrugs, and neck and wrist stretches; starting to unwind. There isn’t much room to manoeuvre, but with no warm-up exercises needed — the heat does that — I’m already working my desk-stressed neck muscles quite deeply.
Moving on to ‘abdominal bursts’, a type of crunch with knees bent and arms alongside the body, I start to feel the burn not in my abs but in my knees. I can’t help but breach the six-inch rule as my knees move perilously close to the hot roof. One to skip next time.
I’m only half-way through my workout and the screen says I’ve burned 70 calories. I feel energised. My technician comes back in to hand me resistance bands, which are secured to a bar near my feet, and ups the tempo of the music, for my eight-minute HIIT.
Led by more diagrams, I take the handles and throw myself into bicep curls, front arm raises and crossovers as well as leg raises. It’s tough. I feel sweat on my chest. After six exercises, I suddenly feel overwhelmed by the lights, the music, the heat. I’m not a celebrity, but get me out of here!
I lift the lid, turn down the heat and click to a meditation programme. Here, I find calming affirmations such as ‘life is a series of miracles, notice them’. Frankly, it’s a miracle I haven’t fainted.
With hindsight, a lower heat setting would have been better. The lowest setting of 40c would still be enough to boost metabolism, Dr Yannis Alexandrides tells me.
He is the Harley Street cosmetic surgeon responsible for bringing this space-age contraption to the UK, and, with his wife Eva, is behind the 111 Cryo Chamber as well, which is also installed at Harvey Nichols. It involves the absolute opposite — spending three minutes at a surprisingly survivable -85c. You can book the two pods back-to-back for a Finnish-style heat/plunge experience. Imagine running from sauna to freezing lake, only with escalators and high-end handbags.
Dr Alexandrides points out that you don’t sweat as much with infra- red heat, and this can make the sauna experience more tolerable.
What’s more, unlike normal sauna sweat, which is mainly salt and water, the ‘deep sweat’ from infrared heat is claimed to bring out ‘cholesterol, fat-soluble toxins, heavy metals, nicotine, sulphuric acid, ammonia and other undesirable elements’. He tells me this has been measured, although he doesn’t have the studies to hand.
By the end of 30 minutes, I’ve burned 150 calories.
My tight muscles have eased, my face has a fresh glow, the stresses of the day have melted. Next time I’ll take things more gently. After all, the heat does the work.
Heat by 111 Cryo at Harvey Nichols, London, starts at £95 for 15 minutes.