When you hit the gym do you find yourself constantly reaching for a towel to mop sweat off your face? Or do you soak through your T-shirt a few minutes into a high-intensity workout?
Sweating is the body’s way of eliminating excess heat and cooling down whenever our core temperature gets too high.
However, a lot of people believe that profuse sweating is an indicator of how hard they are pushing themselves and that it points to the intensity of their workout. Others believe that the more they sweat, the more calories they burn, or the more toxins they eliminate from their bodies. There’s also an assumption that those who are out of shape sweat more.
Is there any truth to these ideas or are they all false?
What Sweating Actually Means
We know that exercising boosts the brain’s happy chemicals, strengthens our bodies and improves our health. But does more sweat indicate a better workout?
No, not really.
As I mentioned before, sweating is a cooling process that our bodies go through to help maintain a constant temperature. Your eccrine glands secrete sweat when your body temperature increases and the evaporation of this sweat from your skin helps keep you cool. This process occurs naturally and it doesn’t necessarily correlate with how many calories you burn or how intensely you work out.
Sweat rates are highly variable and differ from one individual to another. A lot of factors determine how much you sweat during exercise including your:
- Gender – men sweat more than women.
- Age – younger people tend to sweat more than older ones.
- Weight – larger people’s bodies generate more heat, so they sweat more.
- Clothes- clothing made from lycra or polyester helps whisk sweat away from your body, while cotton absorbs the moisture, leaving you soaked.
- Fitness level– surprisingly, those who are aerobically fit tend to be more efficient at releasing heat and, therefore, sweat earlier and more profusely than their less fit counterparts.
- Health – increased sweating might be a sign of a low-grade fever or a low blood sugar level. It also can be a symptom of an overactive thyroid gland or the side effect of certain medicines.
Additionally, the temperature and humidity of the environment you’re exercising in will contribute to how much you sweat. So, too, will your fear, stress and anxiety levels.
The Bottom Line
Now that we’ve established sweating doesn’t equate to a more intense workout, what does? Fitness experts agree that your heart and breathing rates (monitored via heart rate monitors and fitness bands) are better and more reliable indicators of your performance.
Since sweating leads to a loss of fluids, make sure you drink enough water to rehydrate when working out. Sports drinks also are recommended, since they help you replace lost electrolytes. As always, remember to use plenty of sunscreen if you’re exercising outdoors.