BY MUHAMMED JAVED, PHYSICAL THERAPIST
Humans have two types of sweat glands, eccrine (feet, palms, forehead) and the apocrine (armpits, genitals). Believe it or not, we are sweating ALL THE TIME (whether we know it or not). Sweating is our bodies way of distributing heat that is created by our metabolism and muscles. Sweat occurs due to stress, exercise, or heat. The body can adjust the level of sweat production depending on the situation you are in but it is always working to cool your body and keep it at homeostasis.
Promotes healthy circulation: When you sweat, heart rate increases and so does circulation of the blood. When the sweat glands on your skin start producing liquid, they drive blood flow to the skin and initiate the circulatory system.
Removes toxins: Sweat contains all sorts of compounds from your body, including harmful toxins like metals. Toxins that are located deep within the skin are pushed to the surface when you begin sweating and are rid from the body.
Helps fight sickness: The detoxifying nature of sweat can boost your immune system and make it stronger for fighting against common ailments. Also, sweat contains the nitrite which acts as an antibacterial and anti-fungal on the skin.
Lowers body temperature: Sweat is the body’s in house way of regulating temperature. Especially important during exercise, sweating helps your body manage excess heat and keep your core internal temperature from rising too quickly or too high.
Promotes healthier, clearer skin: Sweating opens up your pours and thus reduces the chances of them becoming clogged with bacteria or dirt. Sweating works against black head and acne formation.
Speeds healing: Sweating increases your metabolic processes and thus stimulates your immune system. Sweating is your body’s way of healing itself when you are a sick or injured.
And now that you know why sweat is important and beneficial….time to get down to doing it! Get yourself nice and sweaty with these two quick circuit workouts I came up with awhile back!
Why Some People Sweat More (Or Less)
Even though sweating is a free and easy way to boost health, we don’t all sweat the same. Here are some reasons why the amount we sweat might vary:
- Men vs. Women – A study of both male and female athletes found that men tend to sweat more than their female counterparts. (I think we all knew that already!) The study found this is because the men had significantly more muscle mass, so their bodies had to work harder to cool.
- Weight – Similarly, people who carry extra weight around sweat more.
- Toxicity – People who have more of a toxic load tend to sweat more, since their body is working overtime to eliminate the toxins.
- Hyperhidrosis – Some people sweat 4-5 times what a normal person does. This condition is called hyperhidrosis and is thought to be primarily triggered by infection, medications, overactive nerves due to genetics, or hypothyroid.
- Tattoos – One side effect of getting inked? Losing more sodium and electrolytes in tattoo covered areas. This probably won’t affect someone with a small tattoo here or there, but suggests significant ink over large areas of the body impedes the health benefits of sweating significantly.
How to Get the Benefits of Sweating
So sweating is good, but many of us aren’t doing it enough. Here are a few easy ways to make sure we sweat enough:
- Stop Using Antiperspirant
It seems logical, but the first way to get the benefits is to stop blocking your body’s ability to excrete sweat. Antiperspirants can contain heavy metals and also block pores and reduce the body’s ability to sweat.
- Get More Exercise
We all know that exercise induces sweat and has a host of other benefits. But most of us aren’t doing it nearly enough. Find out a way to get in a quick workout once a day for the most benefit.
- Sit in a Sauna
This is my personal favorite way because the effects and the benefits of sweating are noticeable and immediate. We have a two-person sauna in our house and use it often for the many benefits.
Risks of Sweating (and a Few Cautions)
The most common risk of sweating is dehydration, so make sure to drink plenty of fluids and check out the recovery tips below.
When done responsibly and with a doctor’s OK, the benefits of intentional sweating outweigh the risks for most people. Certain people should take it easy if they:
- have heart conditions
- are under the influence of alcohol
- suffer from eczema
- have high blood pressure
A Caution on Sweating and Eczema
Those with eczema should take extra precautions and may want to shower soon after a good sweat as certain substances in sweat trigger a histamine response in the body that can exacerbate eczema. I’ve shared our family’s experience with eczema and how to treat the root cause in this post.
A Note for Pregnant and Nursing Moms
The right kind of exercise is great for most pregnant and nursing moms without health complications. Pregnant moms with high blood pressure or heart conditions especially should speak with their health care provider to see which types of exercise are safest for them.
In regard to sauna use, studies show time in a sauna increases lactation in nursing moms and is considered safe. Pregnant moms also get the OK for sauna use. Of course, when in doubt consult with a doctor.
How to Recover from a Sweat Session
Since sweat is 98% water, it’s important to hydrate after sweating. Replenishing electrolytes with a homemade electrolyte drink (and much more fun than getting a huge needle IV in your hand … check out that post to see how I know…)
It’s interesting to note though that the body has a natural electrolyte balancing mechanism. Our sweat glands excrete electrolytes, mainly salt onto the skin. However, our body has a method that reabsorbs the sodium, chloride and ions back into the skin. Researchers found that athletes who are used to working up a sweat reabsorbed the excreted ions better than those who don’t exercise as much.
So Start Sweating!
Hopefully reviewing these benefits inspires us to get out there and break a sweat. Lift weights, jog in place, swing those kettlebells, or sit in a sauna … today and every day!
Do you try to work up a sweat on a regular basis? Are you inspired to start? What health benefits of sweating have you noticed or would like experience?
About The Author
MUHAMMED JAVED SUBBAH is a clinician who also understands the tools from the strength and conditioning world together with the knowledge to blend them together. He helps clients rebuild the athletic body with best tailored made approach.