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I’m relatively new to triathlon and to serious training. Over the past several months I’ve been making steady progress, and recently I’ve noticed that I’ve started sweating more. The conditions (temp and humidity) are about the same as they’ve been, but I’m sweating a lot more. Does that mean I’m getting more fit?
– Jackie Gallagher, training for my first Ironman!
The short answer to your question, assuming that the environmental conditions have been roughly constant, is yes. Improving fitness impacts the way your body works in a wide variety of ways, and your sweat response to exercise changes as you become more fit because you’re increasing the workload your body has to be able to handle.
Sweat is one of your body’s primary means of preventing your core temperature from rising to dangerous levels. During exercise, the majority of the calories you burn actually generate heat instead of powering forward motion (sorry, but that’s just the way it is). In fact, on the bike you are only about 20-25% efficient, meaning 75% of the energy you produce becomes heat. That heat has to be dissipated, so your body dilates blood vessels near the skin to carry some of that heat away from your core to areas where cooler air flowing over the skin can carry away some of the heat. Sweat makes the cooling process work even better, because as sweat evaporates off your skin it takes a lot of heat with it.
As you become more fit, you are able to work harder. You generate more power on the bike and maintain a faster pace on the run and in the water. But the ability to work harder also means you have the ability to generate a lot of heat in a very short period of time. You also have the endurance to sustain exercise longer, meaning you have the capacity to generate heat for a longer period of time. Your body has to adapt to these demands in order to keep your core temperature stable. Here are a couple of ways it does that:
- You start sweating sooner: Your body’s sweat response gets quicker as you gain fitness. This means you’ll see sweat appearing on your skin sooner after you start exercising than you did when you were a novice. These days, when you start warming up your body knows what’s coming next, so it ramps up the cooling process more quickly to stay ahead of the rise in core temperature.
- Your sweat volume increases: When the house is on fire, you open up the spigots and get as much water on it as you can. For the fire within, we don’t want to extinguish it but we need to control it, and the more sweat you get onto your skin the more likely you are to be able to keep core temperature from rising out of control. So your body becomes better at creating sweat.
- You lose fewer electrolytes per unit volume: As your body is adapting to sweat more and sooner, it also changes the composition of sweat so that you retain more electrolytes than you used to. You’ll still need to replenish electrolytes during exercise, but this adaptation helps to keep the electrolyte requirement manageable.
Fit athletes sweat more because they need to. They generate more heat and have to produce more sweat in order to maximize their evaporative cooling capacity. That means fit athletes have to consume more fluid so you have more to contribute to sweat. But sometimes sweating isn’t enough, or sweat might be enough to keep you moving but you could optimize your performance by helping your body stay cool. That’s where hydration, apparel choices, ice socks/vests, cold sponges, etc. come into play. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Hydration is your source for sweat: The better you hydrate – during exercise as well as throughout the day – the more efficient your body will be when it comes to sweat production. Remember, when there’s not enough fluid to go around, your body starts an internal competition for resources, and all systems experience diminished performance. You don’t absorb and digest food as well, your muscles don’t function as well, and you don’t regulate core temperature as well.
- Evaporative cooling works just as well whether it’s your sweat or bottled/tap water that’s evaporating off your skin. Even if you’re well hydrated, it’s a good idea to dump water over your head and body during training sessions and races in hot weather. You’ll make your body’s job a bit easier by slightly alleviating the demand for sweat. Ice socks work the same way; the ice absorbs heat from your body to melt the ice, and then the water carries away additional heat as it evaporates out of clothing or off your skin.
- Electrolyte drinks or carbohydrate/electrolyte drinks should be a part of during-exercise nutrition strategy whenever your workouts are going to be longer than 1 hour. For workouts shorter than an hour, electrolyte drinks may still be somewhat helpful, but generally, you’ll start short workouts with enough carbohydrates and electrolytes on board to complete a high-quality one-hour session.
- You Asked: Is It Healthy to Sweat A Lot?
- Thank you!
- Let’s start with the Good Sweating
- Can Sweating Be Bad For You?
- Can you do anything about bad sweat?
- Why Don’t I Sweat?
- Why do I need to sweat?
- Why am I not sweating?
- OUR BLOG
- What If I Don’t Sweat During a Workout
- Sweating and Sports | What is Sweat? Is More Better During Exercise?
- What is sweat?
- Two different types of sweat glands
- Sports: Is it true that if you sweat more, you’re working harder?
- How to sweat right:
- The question everyone asks: do I sweat too much?
- Why Do I Sweat More Than Everyone Else?!
You Asked: Is It Healthy to Sweat A Lot?
Here’s the tricky thing about using sweat as a barometer for health: “A lot of it comes down to biological variation,” says Dr. Craig Crandall, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Crandall says if you examined two people—same height, sex and build—one might produce twice the volume of perspiration as the other. “It could just be one person has more sweat glands,” he explains. “Everybody’s baseline is different, so it’s hard to say what amount of sweat is ‘healthy’.”
Still, patterns emerge when you look at big groups of people.
A 2010 study from Japan examined how fit men and women sweat in response to exercise, and compared their sweating rates to those of unfit people. Fit people not only perspire more, but they also start sweating sooner during exercise, says study coauthor Dr. Yoshimitsu Inoue of Osaka International University. Men also tend to sweat more than women, Inoue says.
Crandall says the differences between fit and unfit people has to do with each person’s capacity for heat generation. “A high fitness level allows you to exercise at a higher workload, which generates more heat, which in turn leads to more sweat,” he explains.
He says men tend to sweat more than women for the same reason overweight or obese adults often sweat more than thin people: Their bodies are larger, which leads to greater heat generation during activity.
Crandall’s own research has found people sweat more after spending time in hot climates. “An athlete training here in Texas versus someone up in Montana may sweat differently in the same conditions,” he says. “Their bodies adapt in response to hot or humid environments.”
So sweat is complicated. But most of the research suggests perspiring in response to heat or exercise—whether you sweat a little or a lot—doesn’t mean much about your health.
Of course, there are other forms of sweat that have nothing to do with heat regulation.
People sweat when they’re nervous, and Crandall says nervous sweat tends to come from different glands than exercise- or heat-induced sweat. “The sweat glands that are sensitive to emotions are mostly under the arms, in the palms, and in the soles of the feet,” he says. While that’s unfortunate for nervous sweaters, there’s no evidence that people who sweat a lot due to worry are less healthy than those who aren’t as emotionally sweaty.
There’s also a condition called hyperhidrosis, which is excessive sweating either all over your body or in one particular area, such as your palms or pits. Excessive means up to four or five times what most people would sweat, says Dr. Adam Friedman, a dermatologist and residency program director at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
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While the cause of this pernicious perspiration is often not identifiable, it can stem from an infection or illness, certain medications or an underlying endocrine condition like thyroid disease, Friedman says. Because of these links to health concerns, he says people who sweat all the time, day and night, should speak with a doctor.
Regardless of how much you perspire, exactly what you’re perspiring doesn’t vary much from person to person. Crandall says, “Sweat is basically water, sodium chloride, and potassium”—all of which you have to replenish after sweating heavily, he says.
And no, despite what you may have heard from the detox circuit, sweating does not rid your body of “toxins”. “It’s not like parts of the junk food you ate are going to escape through your sweat,” Crandall says. “There’s just no evidence of that.”
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You’re trucking along on the treadmill and as you reach for a towel to wipe off the perspiration on your forehead, you can’t help but notice the guy to the right who’s sweating so much. It looks like he jumped in a river. Why is it that some people sweat like crazy and some are barely glistening?
Sweating is the body’s way of cooling itself off and maintaining a healthy temperature. You’re born with between two and four million sweat glands. Women have more sweat glands than men, but men’s glands are more active. How much you sweat depends on your gender, the number of sweat glands you have (more glands equal more sweat), how hot it is, how intensely you’re exercising, or how anxious you feel.
The amount a person sweats also depends on how many sweat glands are activated and how much sweat is excreted from each gland. It turns out that fit men sweat significantly more than fit women. The same amount of sweat glands might be activated, but women produce less sweat from each gland. Fit people sweat more efficiently by sweating sooner during workouts, when their body temperature is lower. However, a sedentary person working at the same intensity will heat up a lot faster and possibly sweat more. Also, overweight people sweat more profusely than normal-weight individuals because fat acts as an insulator that raises core temperature.
Some things are in your control when it comes to sweating. If you’re a coffee drinker, caffeine can increase perspiration, so if you’re concerned, try cutting out that cup of joe. Drinking alcohol can have the same effect, so limit the cocktails. Smokers may also sweat more since nicotine can affect your hormones, skin, and brain. Wearing synthetic fabrics that trap in heat will make you feel more hot, making you more sweaty, so go for more breathable fabrics.
Unfortunately, some people suffer from excessive sweating, a common condition called hyperhidrosis. Their bodies’ faucets turn on and their palms, feet, back, and face become covered in sweat, even if it’s cold out or they’re not moving. If this sounds familiar, consult your doctor to see what treatment options are available.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Benjamin Stone
Is sweating good for you? Or… is it bad for you?
Does it help you lose weight? Release toxins? Or even attract the opposite sex?
In this article, we’ll explore the good, the bad, and a bit of the ugly side of sweat.
Let’s start with the Good Sweating
We’ve been helping people control unwanted, excessive sweat for over 10 years and we often get asked the question… “But aren’t you supposed to sweat?”
The answer: Yes. (but not always)
Normal sweating is certainly good. It’s the natural process by which your body cools itself during an intense workout or on a sweltering summer day.
When temperatures climb, your body signals your sweat glands and they work their magic; You perspire, your body cools, and you live to sweat another day.
Normal sweating can occur on hot days, during exercise, emotional stress, even when consuming your favorite spicy dish.
Are there additional benefits of sweating? It depends on who you ask. Many experts conclude that the cooling affect of sweating is its only redeeming quality.
However, natural wellness experts strongly disagree and argue that sweating has many health benefits. Here’s some popular theories on the benefits of sweating:
- Healthy sweating clears pores helping the skin stay zit and pimple free
- Normal sweating can help protect against germs and bacteria.
- Some studies suggest that sweating produced from intense exercise can reduce the risk of kidney stones.
- According to researchers at UC Berkeley, pheromones found in male sweat can raise Cortisol hormone levels in women. Cortisol is connected with arousal, stress and brain activation. In other words… more sweat = more ladies 😉 or is it… more sweat = more stress?
Now that we’ve established that sweat isn’t just for the stink, let’s explore the potential downside to sweating…
Can Sweating Be Bad For You?
Not all sweating is good. Excessive or abnormal sweating can be a sign of other health problems and the source of some extremely embarrassing social interactions.
We’re all familiar with the ugly side of sweat: sweat tacos, armpit stains, funky body odor, sweaty handshakes, awkward hugs, flattering back sweat, etc…
Here are some not-so-obvious signs that good sweating has gone bad…
- Acidic sweat
- Fatty, stinky sweat
- Salty sweat
- Fishy, smelly sweat
- Unusually stinky sweat
- Excessive sweat or hyperhidrosis
- Sweat that’s gone “AWAL”
Can you do anything about bad sweat?
Yes, there are some things you can do to improve your sweat health, but it’s always best to consult with your doctor if you feel your sweat is abnormal or excessive.
Here’s a few tips to help deal with bad sweat:
Acidic Sweat : Acidic sweat can indicate an acid imbalance in your body. When your body has too much acid it can pass the excess acid through your sweat glands causing acidic sweat. Eating high alkaline foods like fruits and vegetables can help. Avoiding sugars, sodas, and caffeine can also reduce the acid in your body.
Fatty, stinky Sweat : This kind of sweating can indicate high stress in your life. Stress sweat is often produced by your apocrine glands which are only found in your armpits. This sweat tends to carry fat and protein that can mix with bacteria and add a not-so-sweet aroma to your underarms. Find ways to calm down, destress, and relax to reduce this kind of sweating.
Salty Sweat : Stingy, salty sweat can indicate a low sodium diet. Strange as it seems, adding a bit of salt to your diet and some electrolytes may help tame your salty sweat.
Fishy, Smelly Sweat : Fish flavored sweat can indicate a rare and extremely inconvenient problem called Fish Odor Syndrome or Trimethylaminuria. Unfortunately we don’t have any tips to offer here. It’s best to consult with your doctor about possible antibiotics, soaps or special diet recommendations that may help.
Unusually Stinky Sweat : If strong smelling sweat makes frequent visits to your underarms it’s worth looking at your diet. Foods like garlic, stinky cheese, onions, cabbage and fried foods can rise again in the form of dangerously potent body odor. Eliminating certain foods from your diet may help reduce unfavorable odors. Here’s a great article on foods that make you sweat and another helpful article that explores the foods that can reduce sweating.
Excessive Sweating or Hyperhidrosis : If you feel like you’re sweating too much or sweating more than usual, you might have hyperhidrosis. Hyperhidrosis is characterized by excessive sweating even when temperatures, stress/emotional levels, and physical activity are low. In other words, you sweat a lot and for no apparent reason. While hyperhidrosis isn’t life-threatening, it can be extremely embarrassing. Treatments for hyperhidrosis include botox, medications, microwaving your sweat glands, and in more severe cases surgery. But the most economical and effective treatment is a strong clinical strength antiperspirant.
No Sweat : Lack of sweat is not a good thing. This can indicate that sweat glands are no longer functioning properly due to nerve damage, skin damage or other disorders. This condition is known as Hypohidrosis (not hyper) or anhidrosis. If sweat glands are no longer producing sweat, you could be in danger of overheating or heat stroke.
If you have any concerns about your sweating, it’s always best to consult with a doctor about possible treatments and underlying medical conditions that may be influencing your bodies natural sweating.
Article sources and other helpful links to learn more about healthy sweating:
Photo: Matthew Stockman (Getty Images)
I sweat a lot.
I sweat while I’m walking. I sweat while I’m sitting. I sweat while I’m having a conversation. In any job interview, I’ll leave the room soaked in sweat, like I involuntarily entered a wet T-shirt contest. I’m sweating while I write this.
My sweating problem has long plagued me. Is this a genetic lottery I’ve simply lost?
After speaking with Michele Green, a dermatologist, it turns out that answer might be a yes, I likely have my genetics to thank for this burden. Luckily, not all hope is lost and there are ways you can try to stop sweating when life feels like a sauna.
I spoke to Green about why exactly we sweat, why Botox is more than just a wrinkle-aid, and how to temporarily solve your sweating issue with a couple quick fixes:
What exactly is sweat and why do we do it?
According to Green, we sweat because we need to cool down (which shouldn’t come as a surprise). Sweat itself is mostly water, with chlorides, proteins, sugars, ammonia, urea, and trace metals added in, that comes to the surface of our skin when triggered by the hypothalamus region in our brain.
There are two different kinds of sweat glands on your body, too. Eccrine glands, all over your skin, respond to exercise and heat. Apocrine glands, mostly in your armpits and groin, respond to excitement, nerves, and emotions, Popular Mechanics wrote, so you have those to thank for job interview-sweat stains.
Sweating is only effective in regulating your body temp if you allow it to sit on your skin and evaporate, however (in other words, wiping it down or letting droplets hit the floor is a waste of your sweating efforts!)
Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images) Advertisement
How large a role do genetics play?
Likely a big one, though research into the subject is very limited. A 2002 study following patients with hyperhidrosis (or, excessive sweating) showed that there is a hereditary component to those suffering from the disorder. In other words, you may have your parents to thank for the sweating problem.
According to the Cut, there is some evidence that where you grew up (and its climate) may also play a role. We’re all born with roughly the same amount of sweat glands. During your first two years as an infant, however, some glands never become active and this is based on need.
If you grew up somewhere hot, you would have activated more glands, and thus, sweat more now as a result.
How can I stop sweating?
Well, if you want to stop sweating long-term, it’ll be difficult, but there are some things you can do to curb the problem.
If you’re a frequent pit-sweater, the FDA recently approved the very first prescription method that’ll address your sweating. It’s a medicated cloth towelette used daily that will reduce an underarm sweating problem by blocking neurotransmitters in sweat glands.
And if you’re looking for a cosmetic change too, try Botox. According to Green, Botox injections in your forehead or armpits can help reduce sweating significantly (though, it won’t always curb the issue of smell, according to Self, so you might still need deodorant if scent is also a concern).
And yes, drinking ice water will definitely help (Green recommends Gatorade if you want to truly replenish yourself), as will taking an ice cold shower.
If you want to stop sweating quick, Green also recommends the ice pack trick—but using it on the back of your neck, instead of on your forehead or in your hands. “That’s where the sensors are for heat,” she said. “That actually helps more than holding it.”
And from experience, never wear wool under any circumstances. It’s like wearing clothing with a built-in radiator.
For more from Lifehacker, be sure to follow us on Instagram @lifehackerdotcom.
Why Don’t I Sweat?
We all have a friend who never seems to break a sweat. As in, completely dry while the rest of us avoid wearing colorful clothing and discreetly wipe our brows at every turn. Maybe you are that friend? While other gym-goers have that glow—a blurry badge of fitness honor—you’ve barely got a drop above your brow.
Not dealing with perspiration might be nice at first, but if you find yourself unable to sweat you may be at risk of overheating or fainting. In fact, not being able to sweat could lead to major discomfort and potential danger.
Why do I need to sweat?
Here are the facts. You were born with between two to four million sweat glands. They aid your body in cooling down and regulating your temperature. Not only that, they’re a necessary evil in relieving muscles of excess heat. They also put salt back into your bloodstream. Two types of sweat glands carry out these duties—eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine glands perspire directly onto the skin surface. Their job is to cool that surface, expel electrolytes, lower body temperature, and maintain the skin’s acid mantle (which prevents bacteria from colonizing).
Apocrine glands are found mostly in the armpit. Unlike eccrine glands, they don’t expel sweat topically, but into hair follicles. The liquid secreted includes nutrients that are broken down by bacteria (making for that lovely odor). All in all, both types of glands are paramount to keeping your body safe.
So if sweating is not only good for us, but also vital to our well-being, why do some of us have such a hard time with it? Why do some of us not sweat at all, period? We contacted Clifford Stark, DO, Medical Director of Sports Medicine at Chelsea , and Director of Northshore LIJ Plainview Sports Medicine Fellowship to get answers.
Why am I not sweating?
“Decreased sweating, or “hypohidrosis” has many possible causes. While excessive sweating (“hyperhidrosis”) is generally benign and more of a social convenience issue, hypohidrosis can have some serious repercussions, such as hyperthermia, stroke, and even death.”
When asked about what causes hypohidrosis, Stark answered, “Causes can be very widespread, such as autonomic disturbances, autoimmune disorders, various medications, surgeries, tumors, nerve injuries, genetic disorders, to name only a few. That said, many individuals tend to sweat more or less than others, and where they sweat most also varies. The degree to which an individual lacks the ability to sweat can influence how much their exercise is affected, and the risks involved.”
Decreased sweating, or hypohidrosis can have some serious repercussions, such as hyperthermia, stroke, and even death.
Eager for more explanation? We were, too. Keep reading for a breakdown of possible reasons why you aren’t beading at the forehead or perspiring at the pits.
The most common reason for lack of sweating is dehydration. Lack of hydration before or after a workout means your body will be severely lacking in fluids. Since sweat largely consists of water, not having enough of it throughout your system means you won’t have enough to sweat out. In turn, this makes it tough for you to cool off and recover. Challenging workouts aside, just being outside in intense heat can get you damp, and not restoring the water content in your body can be hazardous.
It’s long been thought that men, having fewer sweat glands than women, have more active glands that produce more moisture. Thus, the notion that men sweat more than women.
Something of a hot topic, researchers have published quite a few studies that prove the idea to be true. One of these studies not only compared men and women, but also men and women of differing fitness levels. In the study, four groups (trained men, trained women, untrained men, untrained women) performed an hour long stationary bike routine while in a 86-degree fahrenheit room. The study’s author found that while fit men and women used a similar number of sweat glands while active, those glands in men produced more sweat. In line with this, untrained women sweat the least, reaching higher body temperatures and workout intensities before doing so.
While this has been studied multiple times, more recent findings argue that gender’s influence on the matter only makes for a 5% variance. So, the jury’s still out on this one.
The more you sweat, the less fit you are—we’ve all heard that. This comes from the idea that those who aren’t very active need to work harder in order to reach the same level of intensity as those who are. In actuality, the more you workout, the more likely you are to produce a greater amount of sweat. Ever wondered why professionals always appear soaked?
As with most things, the more you sweat the better your body gets at it. It’s likely that consistent exercising makes your body more efficient at cooling off, thus more sweat.
Not working up as much of a mist as your neighboring elliptical user? It’s possible that he or she has been doing this longer than you or that your workouts aren’t hard enough. Try an Aaptiv cycling class from one of our top trainers in the app and see if you notice a difference.
An uncontrollable reason you may not be able to perspire is, as Stark mentioned, hypohidrosis (also called anhidrosis). Hypohidrosis is a genetic disorder or mutation that results in being unable to produce sweat. While reported causes of the gene mutation include damage to sweat glands (more on that later), that reasoning alone left scientist to wonder how families of people could have the same disorder while possessing normal sweat glands.
One 2014 study in particular was able to crack the code. The researchers studied a Pakistani family, the children of which couldn’t sweat. Taking a deep dive into a physiological approach, they discovered that a mutation was present in one singular gene. The gene, ITPR2, controls basic cellular functions in sweat glands, such as creating a protein (InsP3R) that moves calcium ions in and out of cells. This function, specifically, is needed for many other cell tasks, too (like creating saliva). The study found that a mutation in the gene made for defective proteins that don’t assist in moving calcium. While not affecting other functions, the disorder made for an inability to sweat within the family.
This is something to consider if you’ve already checked all previous causes off (or have had an odd conversation with a family member who just can’t perspire either). When left unchecked it can lead to overheating, so ask your doctor about testing and treatment.
Medications, Medical Conditions, and Surgeries
As Stark stated, there are several more medical factors that could result in hyperhidrosis, including autonomic disturbances, autoimmune disorders, various medications, surgeries, tumors, and nerve injuries (yikes). Let’s break this down.
* Autonomic disturbances: Autonomic Dysfunction happens when the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is disturbed. Since your ANS controls a bevy of necessary functions such as heart rate, body temperature, sensation, digestion, and breathing rate, an impact can cause symptoms to arise. Since body temperature is involved, one symptom of a disturbed system is sweating too little or too much.
* Autoimmune disorders: Some autoimmune disorders can also be to blame. Systemic sclerosis and scleroderma—a duo of rare autoimmune disorders that tighten and harden connective tissue and skin— have been proven to influence anhidrosis. Sjögren’s Syndrome can also prevent sweating by blocking sweat glands with immune system cells, or destroying sweat glands altogether.
* Trauma to nerves that control sweating or trauma directly to the sweat glands can stop you from sweating. Some skin conditions like harsh burns can also result in an end to sweat.
As always, if you believe you’re experiencing any of the aforementioned genetic or medical symptoms, we encourage speaking with your doctor to find an effective solution.
Have a gnawing question or interesting fitness topic you’d like us to cover? Shoot us a thought by using #TeamAaptiv or posting in the community.
Also, if you’d like to take your fitness to another level, Aaptiv’s workout classes are perfect. Take our free fitness quiz to see which ones are best for you.
What If I Don’t Sweat During a Workout
Maybe you’re at exercising at home or maybe you’re in the gym working with an expert trainer. Suddenly, it hits you: you aren’t sweating. Panic ensues.
Most people assume that any good workout ends in a pool of sweat. While it is true that sweating has its benefits, it is not the only indicator of a successful workout session. Here are five surprising facts about your sweat!
Sweat: What is it?
No, sweat isn’t just a damp indicator of how hard you’ve been working. Sweat is one of several ways your body responds to changes within the outside environment. Sometimes, our bodies can regulate temperature without sweating. For instance, the process of radiation allows our skin to give off excess heat. However, when these external methods fail, we sweat. When you sweat, water molecules from within your blood rise to the surface of the skin where they bead up and serve as a cooling agent. But, as you might be able to guess, every person’s rate of sweat is as different as they are.
Sweat is Personal
While the physical process of sweat may be the same for everyone, it is true that people sweat differently. Some people who suffer from skin conditions like hyperhidrosis struggle with excessive sweat. Other individuals report completing hour long workouts with little or no visible sweat. Gender and fitness level are just two factors that affect how much a person sweats. In general, it is true that women sweat less than men, even though they have more sweat glands. Furthermore, people who are relatively fit may sweat more often and more easily due to their more active thermoregulation systems.
As you could probably guess, external temperature has something to do with the rate at which you sweat. Working out in a typical air-conditioned gym is deceiving when it comes to gauging sweat. For one, since your body is not stuck inside a hot outside environment, less sweat is necessary. Even more confusing is the possibility of “invisible” sweat. Basically, even if your body is sweating profusely to cool down, the cold air present in most indoor gym settings has the power to evaporate the sweat droplets on your skin.
Weight Loss and Sweat
One of the most common “sweat myths” is that perspiration is tied directly to weight loss. Conventional wisdom holds that any workout leading to weight loss must involve large amounts of sweat. As a result, many people seeking to lose weight often try to increase their rate of perspiration through heated exercise areas or additional layers of clothing. However, these strategies simply increase the amount of sweat rather than weight-loss inducing caloric burn. Even worse, these methods frequently lead to dehydration or even dangerous overheating.
Don’t “Sweat” It
So how can you tell if your workout has made an impact? Duration and intensity offer one better way of measuring a session. When beginning a workout, you could set a timer to measure the amount of time you spend at various levels of aerobic intensity. Another helpful measure of a workout’s efficacy can found by looking a weight load or number of repetitions, particularity in strength focused workouts.
What Really Matters
More than stained t-shirts or dripping gym equipment, the best indicator of a successful workout is how you feel. Sure, you might find yourself soaked, but how can you know if you’ve been truly challenged? The experts at Custom Kinetics fully understand that sweat is only one part of the fitness equation. For fitness tips, advice, and yes, maybe even breaking a sweat, contact the trainers at Custom Kinetics.
Skipping your workout for a day or two when your schedule is packed won’t cause you to lose all your gains at the gym. But we know that a good sweat session is about way more than just the physical benefits—it’s about how confident and accomplished it makes you feel, too.
For a short and effective routine, we asked JD Lorenzetti, trainer at FIT RxN in New York City, to share one of his favorite five-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) routines—so that you can sneak in a workout on the days when making it to the gym just isn’t a reality.
“This routine is quick, so I have the energy to make it through, but it helps get my heart pumping and I feel accomplished,” he says. For the most bang for your buck, the full-body routine incorporates both cardiovascular and strength training. To do it, complete the exercises below and try to complete the circuit as many times as possible in 5 minutes. Rest as needed.
1. Mountain Climbers Start in a high plank position. Drive right knee under chest then switch legs. Continue alternating as fast as you can for 10 reps on each side.
2. Air Squats Stand with feet hip-width apart and toes pointing slightly out. Keeping chest up and weight in heels, hinge at hips and bend knees lowering into a squat. Aim to get thighs parallel to floor. Push through heels to stand. Do 10 reps.
3. Up/Downs Start in a forearm plank. Keeping abs tight and spine long, pick up right arm and right palm on ground. Repeat on left side, ending up in a high-plank position. Now reverse the movement, replacing right palm with right elbow and left palm with left elbow. That’s 1 rep. Do 10 reps, alternating starting arms with each rep.
4. Chest-To-Ground Burpees Place hands on ground, jump legs back into plank position and lower body until chest touches ground. Push body off ground and hop forward, planting feet next to hands. Jump up and reach arms overhead and immediately lower into next rep. Do 10 reps.
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Photo Credit: Andreas Pollok, Getty
Sweating and Sports | What is Sweat? Is More Better During Exercise?
What most people already know is that sweating is our body’s way of cooling itself down during a workout or intense physical activity or even a super stressful situation. But, did you know that there are two types of sweat glands? Thank goodness, because otherwise we’d have to spray or roll on deodorant (without aluminum!) all over our entire body!
What is sweat?
First, let’s start with the basics. So, what is sweat?
…is made up mainly of water (H₂0) and salt (Na+). This is why adequate hydration is extremely important, so your body has the means to cool itself down.
If you are dehydrated going into a workout — which means you did not drink enough beforehand — besides likely not feeling very well, your body will not be able to cool itself down and regulate its core temperature properly. And, the same goes for replenishing lost fluid after an intense workout as well. If you do not compensate for your sweat loss with proper fluid intake, especially for those who are engaging in intense physical activity, a hypohydrated state can occur as well as an overall increase in core body temperature.(1) Remember sweat is water and salt, so you’ll want to properly hydrate with water (of course!) as well as homemade electrolyte drinks or mindfully incorporating a bit of salt (preferably Himalayan salt) into your meals.
Sweating in the summer…
…You may have noticed that you break a sweat faster and sweat more when you exercise in the summer. This is completely normal — you body has to adjust to the heat and cool itself down more. So, in this case, more sweat is a positive reaction from your body.
Two different types of sweat glands
- The eccrine glands are the ones responsible for cooling down the body when our body temperature rises. They are found all over the body and open directly on the surface of the skin, which then allows the sweat to evaporate causing this cooling effect.
- Apocrine sweat glands, on the other hand, are found under the arms and in the groin area — areas where there are generally more concentrated hair follicles. These sweat glands are also triggered by increased body temperature, but mostly activated during times of stress, anxiety, or hormonal fluctuations. This sweat is a bit milkier and mixes with the bacteria on the skin which creates the, not-so-pleasant, body odor.
Sports: Is it true that if you sweat more, you’re working harder?
Yes and no. Because the amount that you sweat also depends on your weight, gender, fitness level, age, where you live (climate), and even your genetics. An overweight person is going to sweat more easily because the amount of energy needed to execute a particular activity is going to be higher. Additionally, a fitter person who works out regularly will begin to sweat faster than a not-so-fit person because the body is smart and is already prepared to sweat to cool itself down while training.
How to sweat right:
1. Drink Enough
Most people walk around chronically dehydrated! Be sure that you’re drinking enough water every day. This calculator will help you find out how much you should be drinking:
And by the way, you should be drinking water even when you are not thirsty! The feeling of thirst is actually your body crying for help, not an initial signal. If you’re not sure whether you’re drinking enough, see if any of these 9 signs of dehydration apply to you.
2. Remove cosmetics beforehand
If you want to really sweat, then wash off any makeup or lotions you may have put on throughout the day. Why? These can block the pores and prevent your body from cooling itself down.
Blocked pores (especially on the face) during exercise can also increase blemishes. Wash it off quickly beforehand if you have time.
3. Wear the right workout clothes
The most important thing to think about when choosing workout clothes is breathability. You’ll be happier training in moisture-wicking and breathable materials.
The question everyone asks: do I sweat too much?
If you feel that you are excessively sweating, especially outside of workouts and stressful situations, see your doctor about a condition called hyperhidrosis. People with this condition find their sweat interfering with everyday activities: sweaty palms making turning a doorknob difficult or clothing becoming noticeably soaked without having engaged in any sort of strenuous physical activity.(2) But do not be ashamed or embarrassed if this is you. You are not alone! Nearly 5% of the global population suffers from this.(3)
So now you know, the amount you sweat doesn’t only depend on the intensity of your workout, but also on other factors. If you provide the right conditions for your body to sweat in a healthy way, it can cool down efficiently and there’s nothing stopping you from your summer workouts.
Why Do I Sweat More Than Everyone Else?!
It’s halfway through the first plank series in barre class, and you’re sweating so much it looks like you just jumped in a pool—yet your friend is completely dry. Or maybe you’re the type who can tear through a treadmill session and barely glisten. Either way, what gives?
First, let’s break down the science of sweat. “Sweating is a necessary process that cools down the body,” explains David M. Pariser, M.D., a dermatologist and founding member of the International Hyperhidrosis Society.
When your body starts to overheat, the nervous system stimulates sweat glands to release perspiration.Mechanisms and controllers of eccrine sweating in humans. Shibasaki M, Crandall CG. Frontiers in Bioscience (Scholar Edition), 2010, Jan.;2():1945-0524. As the droplets evaporate off of your skin, they take some body heat into the atmosphere. (Think about how chilly your skin is when still wet from the shower—as the water dries, it cools down your body. Sweat works the same way to cool you down as it evaporates.)
What sweating doesn’t do is “detox” your body, Pariser says. ”More than 99 percent of sweat is water, along with trace amount of electrolytes like salt.” While a small amount of toxic substances can find their way out of the body through perspiration, detoxification primarily occurs in the liver, kidneys, and lungs—not through the skin.
How Much Is Too Much?
Just about any amount of sweat is considered normal. “There’s a lot of variability as to how much people sweat, and most of it is in a normal range,” Pariser explains. “Just like height, there’s an average when it comes sweat—and some people produce more and some produce less.”
If you’re constantly a little clammy, worry not. “Everyone sweats a baseline amount at all times,” Pariser says. And most people sweat more noticeably when exercising, in a hot place, or in a stressful, embarrassing, or uncomfortable situation. (Awkward first date, anyone?)
However, if you’re sweating a ton all the time, especially in certain body areas, it may indicate a medical condition called hyperhidrosis, which affects 2 percent of the U.S. population, Pariser says. One type, known as focal hyperhidrosis, may be genetic, and the sweating occurs only on specific body parts (usually the underarms, feet, hands, or face). The second type may be a side effect caused by another disease (such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism), menopause, or certain medications. If you feel like you’re suffering from excessive sweating, talk to a doctor to see if it could be hyperhidrosis.
The Surprising Way Fitness Affects Sweating
But what if you’ve ruled out a medical condition and are still sweating up a storm? It may simply be a sign that you’re in shape. (Yass!) Over the past few decades, multiple studies have suggested that trained endurance athletes sweat sooner and produce more perspiration compared to untrained people.Effect of physical training on exercise-induced sweating in women. Araki T, Matsushita K, Umeno K. Journal of Applied Physiology: Respiratory, Environmental and Exercise Physiology, 1982, Mar.;51(6):0161-7567. Effect of physical training on peripheral sweat production. Buono MJ, Sjoholm NT. Journal of Applied Physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 1988, Nov.;65(2):8750-7587. Cholinergic sensitivity of the eccrine sweat gland in trained and untrained men. Buono MJ, White CS, Connolly KP. Journal of Dermatological Science, 1992, Nov.;4(1):0923-1811.
“The more fit you are, the more efficiently your body sweats,“ explains Tony Musto, Ph.D., director of fitness and an exercise physiologist at the University of Miami. This is a good thing, since sweating helps cool you down and enables you to lift, run, or cycle at a higher intensity for longer. (What you don’t want is your body to reach the critical core temp of 104 degrees, when people tend to pass out from heat illness or heat stroke.)
This isn’t to say sedentary folks will stay dry. There’s a relationship between sweat and a person’s maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max), a measure of cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance. Research shows that the higher the VO2 max (and therefore fitness level) of a long-distance runner, the more quickly he starts to sweat and the more sweat he produces.Long distance runners present upregulated sweating responses than sedentary counterparts. Lee JB, Kim TW, Min YK. PloS One, 2014, Apr.;9(4):1932-6203.
Here’s where it gets a little complicated: When performing the same absolute work (i.e. jogging at 5 miles per hour on a treadmill), an unfit person may reach his VO2 max more quickly than a fit person, prompting him to sweat sooner and sweat more, even if the fit person sweats more efficiently overall, Musto says. That’s because the unfit person may be working at 80 percent of his VO2 max, while the fit person is only at 50 percent.
On the other hand, if both a fit and unfit individual are working at the same relative workload (i.e., 60 percent of their VO2 max), the fit person who’s running at 8 miles per hour will start to sweat more quickly and produce more sweat than the unfit person running at 5 miles per hour, Musto says. This also helps explain why the trained runners sweat more than the unfit people in the study above—they’re able to run faster and harder, creating more body heat and more sweat.
To further complicate things, a few more factors impact how much you sweat.
If you’ve ever walked into (or past) a men’s locker room, this news won’t come as a shock. In one study, a group of trained men and women and a group of unfit men and women cycled on stationary bikes for one hour in a studio heated to 86 degrees.Sex differences in the effects of physical training on sweat gland responses during a graded exercise. Ichinose-Kuwahara T, Inoue Y, Iseki Y. Experimental Physiology, 2010, Aug.;95(10):1469-445X. The researchers looked at how many sweat glands were active during each rider’s session and riders’ overall sweat rates.
The result: Fit men perspired the most, especially during the more intense exercise. The fit women produced the second-most sweat, while the sedentary women perspired the least of any group. Even though women have more sweat glands than men, they produce less sweat from each gland, the researchers explain.
2. Body Mass
Another reason that helps explain the study’s results: “Men tend to be heavier, have more muscle mass, and in turn produce more heat than women do while working out,“ Musto says. Further research has shown that the higher a person’s body mass index (BMI), the more they sweat.The body mass index and level of resection: predictive factors for compensatory sweating after sympathectomy. de Campos JR, Wolosker N, Takeda FR. Clinical Autonomic Research: Official Journal of the Clinical Autonomic Research Society, 2005, Jul.;15(2):0959-9851.
A piping hot latte will obviously dial up your body temp, which can encourage sweating. However, if coffee’s diuretic effect takes place before you work out yet you go to the bathroom prior to exercising, you may actually sweat less, Musto says. That could equal a less-than-stellar workout, so be sure to drink plenty of H2O in addition to java to stay hydrated. The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before exercising and seven to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during a workout.
Ever felt flushed after a few cocktails? Alcohol increases your heart rate and dilates blood vessels in your skin, bringing blood to your skin’s surface. This in turn raises your body temp, which can cause you to sweat more. Despite what hot yoga devotees may believe, you (sadly) can’t “sweat it out” after a big night out: Only about 5 percent of alcohol leaves your body through urine, breath, and sweat; 95 percent is metabolized by the liver.
5. Spicy Foods
Eating spicy foods also triggers your body temp to go up, so your body produces sweat to help cool itself down, Musto says. If you find you sweat a ton when you eat and it’s making you uncomfortable, it could be a sign of Frey’s syndrome, or gustatory sweating. People with Frey’s sweat excessively at the mere thought or taste of any food (even ice cream). Talk to a doctor if you’re concerned this could be an issue.
6. Hot Weather
This may be another “duh“ moment, but warmer days raise your body temperature, increasing heart rate and blood flow in an effort to cool down the core, Musto says. Humid weather is a double whammy: Since there’s more moisture in the air, it’s harder for the sweat on your skin to evaporate, deterring the cooling process.
There are plenty of factors that determine how much sweat an individual produces, and just about every level of sweating can be considered “normal”. Bonus: The fitter you are, the more you sweat, which enables your body to keep on running, lifting, cycling—whatever you’re into—for longer. However, if you’re constantly sweating like crazy, especially in one specific area, it could be a sign of a rare condition called hyperhidrosis. Check with a doc if you’re concerned.