Should You Really Sweat During Exercise?


There’s an old phrase: ‘let’s have a good sweat from exercise’, which indicates that sweating is a sign your workout is productive.

But what if you don’t really sweat during your exercise? Was it all just a lost cause? Did you exercise hard enough for it to be productive?

Let’s examine the facts here and dispel this popular myth that sweat and exercise are related.

Your body is an engine that is always running, and like all engines it produces heat. As your muscles contract and expand, heat is produced. If the body didn’t have processes to release this heat, you would overheat and collapse within a mere 20 minutes.

The first method, is where heat radiates out of the skin. However this only happens if the air around your body is cooler than you are.

The second method involves the conduction of heat to another source by direct contact, such as swimming in a pool of cold water, allowing the water to absorb your body heat.

The third method, radiation, allows moving air to cool you down, for example, standing in front of a fan or the wind. The last method is evaporation, or as its commonly know, sweating. This is where water in the blood absorbs excess heat and rises to the surface of your skin, where it is then evaporated, causing a cooling effect.

In places where the weather is cold, you wouldn’t have to sweat as much as when you live in warmer places. Sweating is the primary method of keeping cool, as during warmer weather, the air is hotter than your body. However if there is humidity present, the sweat cannot leave your skin, so you are likely to notice it dripping off instead. In these conditions, your body is more likely to utilize the other methods of keeping cool.

Everyone has a different sweating pattern, depending on gender, age, fitness level and environmental factors. All of these contribute to how much you sweat.

As you age, people tend to sweat less and thus are at more risk of overheating, however this may also be attributed to a general decline in exercise. In laboratory experiments, both young and older people with similar fitness levels were tested with no notable difference in their sweating process detected.

Exercising in an air-conditioned room or outside during a cooler time of year will result in less sweat, as the cold air evaporates your sweat much quickly, so your body is set up to use more energy to cool itself.

This means your body is able to deal with the heat generated by exercising a lot more easier. Now don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re not burning as many calories. The caloric burn factors include exercise intensity and length of time, not how much you sweat. Most people are sweating all the time; you just can’t see it because it is evaporating quickly.

If there was a direct correlation between the amount of sweat and caloric burn during exercise, then it was also be true that you would burn more calories simply by sitting in a hot, humid room. Now, this is obviously not the case, as the sweat you see is due only to the conditions in the room, without allowing for evaporation to cool the body.

Exercise produces heat, and heat spends calories, and you generate the same amount of heat whether you exercise in a cold environment, or a hot one. So just because you don’t sweat as much in cold conditions does not mean your exercise session was any less productive than if you had done it in the heat.