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Why We Sweat or Don’t Sweat

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Zac- Nov. 29Why We Sweat or Don’t Sweat
By Zac Woodruff, RN BS

Yesterday, my wife and I punished ourselves with 90 minutes of rigorous exercise to make up for our indulgences on Thanksgiving and during the Civil War. Oh man, we pushed hard.

We did our regular upper body workout and cardio workout, but then my wife added in this brutal circuit training. 100 jumping jacks, 100 crunches, 100 squats, 25 pushups, then repeat that 4 times. Just thinking about makes my muscles sore.

By the end of the 90 min, I was toast. I really didn’t feel like I could do anything else. It was then that I snapped this slightly sweaty selfie. After working out that hard for over and hour and a half, I felt like I should have been dripping in sweat (like sweat everywhere, running down my back, soaking through my shirt kind of sweat) but I wasn’t.

But then again, I’ve had workouts and runs where I was literally soaked in sweat when I was done. One day I could do 30 min on my elliptical and barely sweat, then the next, do the exact same thing and sweat like crazy.

This got me thinking… I know we that we basically sweat to help regulate our body temperatures, but is it indeed an indicator of adequate cardiovascular exercise? If we aren’t sweating, are we not working out hard enough?

According to WebMD (2015), sweating is the cooling process your body goes through to help you maintain a steady body temperature – but it’s no workout indicator. We have this association that sweating equals calories burned, and that’s actually not accurate. Every body is different and sweats differently, and how much or how little you sweat doesn’t equate to the number of calories you burn.

Again, the chief reason for sweating is temperature regulation. The average person has nearly 3 million sweat glands in their skin and they are commonly divided into two major types: eccrine and apocrine. The eccrine glands are everywhere on the body. The apocrine are oil glands that have a thicker, more potentially odoriferous sweating and they are mostly under the arms or in the groin area.

Theoretically, you could perform an hour of intense circuit training in a walk-in freezer and not sweat a drop. By the same token, you can quite easily break a sweat just walking to the store on a hot July day in Las Vegas.

Don’t use the amount you sweat as a good indicator as to the number of calories you’ve burned. What matters is how long and how intensely you’re working out. Push yourself hard and every time you exercise try to improve just a little bit. If you are giving it your all, it doesn’t really matter whether or not you are dripping with sweat.

One thing to keep in mind is that it’s difficult to sweat if you are dehydrated. Experts recommend drinking 24 ounces of water prior to rigorous exercise and then continuing to hydrate during the exercise. Make sure you stay hydrated anytime you engage in exercise.

So there you have it, sweating keeps our body temperature within range, but doesn’t necessarily mean you are burning more calories. Just do your best and push yourself when you exercise. That’s the key to your success.