Debunking the Myth That Sweat Equals an Intense Workout

Chronic Cardio is bad

One of the more enduring measuring sticks people use to gauge the intensity of their workout is how much they sweat. If you and a friend are working out side by side and your shirt is drenched while their shirt is relatively dry, then you figure that you must have had a more intense workout than your friend did. While sweating during a workout can help you feel cleansed, contrary to popular belief, it does not necessarily indicate the intensity of your workout.

A Little about Sweat Glands

Sweat is produced by two different glands in the body: eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Both types of glands are known to respond to physical stimulation as well as psychological stimulation. The major difference between these two glands is their location. Eccrine glands are mostly found in places where the skin is least hairy. While the apocrine glands are restricted to areas of skin with dense hair follicles.

Apocrine sweat glands have very little to do with our bodies cooling system and in fact, they produce very minute amounts of sweat. For the purposes of this topic, we’ll focus mostly on eccrine sweat glands; however, t’s important to note that neither sweat gland discretes body fat or has a role in fat loss within the body.

Why We Sweat

As physical fitness becomes more popular around the U.S., the myth that sweating equals substantial weight loss increases in perpetuation. While you will hopefully feel invigorated after a particularly sweaty workout, you need to understand why people sweat so that you can keep your workout results in perspective.

The only purpose of sweating is to maintain your body’s internal temperature. If your body’s internal temperature rises uncomfortably high, then it will release sweat to cool the surface of the skin and bring down your body temperature. While you do lose water weight when you sweat, you can quickly gain that weight back when you properly hydrate yourself before, during and after exercise.

Physiological Differences between Each Person

You could go to the gym, hop on a treadmill, and set your pace to match the runner next to you. After the same amount of time, you might be sweatier than your fellow runner. They could also be sweatier than you. But it’s highly unlikely the two of you will excrete the same amount of sweat from your sweat glands. As your sweat production is more a result from your genetic makeup, it’s a poor representation of physical exertion and calorie burn.

On average, the human body has from 2,000,000 to 5,000,000 sweat glands. Women have more sweat glands than men; but men’s sweat glands are larger, which is why men sweat more. Within each gender, the people with the most sweat glands also sweat the most.

When you participate in sweat-building exercises, the sweat you release generally indicates more about your body temperature than about possible weight loss. Your sweat consists of water, protein, salt and non-toxic urea. In other words, your sweat does not cleanse your body of any dangerous toxins and is not causing you to lose any substantial weight.

Real Workout Success Indicators

The amount you sweat has nothing to do with the positive physical impact a workout has on your body. When your body sweats, it is releasing fluid to help keep the body’s internal temperature regulated by cooling the surface of the skin. Lots of sweat during exercise doesn’t translate to weight loss. Another common misconception of sweat involves the shedding of toxins from the body through sweating. Unfortunately, this is not the case as well. But moving your body and getting even a little sweaty does mean that you’ve successfully raised your body temperature and can indicate that you did more than sit on your couch at home! Go, you! If you want to effectively measure the success of your exercise, track the following information:

  • Heart Rate -Calculate your resting heart rate, your reserve heart rate, and your ideal heart rate zones to know which zones you’re exercising in and how that heart rate zone is affecting your body. Wearing a tracking device like a fitness watch or a chest strap heart rate monitor will give you a very accurate read of just how effectively you’re exercising. Another way to gauge this (by approximation) is to monitor your breathing. Depending on your ability to talk while exercising or simply gasp for air will tell you a lot about which heart rate zone you’re exercising in.
  • Calories Burned – An effective workout will burn approximately 300 calories per hour. This number will vary depending on your level of physical fitness. New runners will burn more calories in the same time span as experienced runners because their bodies are not acclimated to that particular physical activity. The same goes for gym goers lifting the same amount of weight. An seasoned weight lifter will have to lift more weight to experience the same calorie burn as a lifter utilizing smaller weights for the same amount of repetitions. Counting burned calories can most accurately done by tracking your heart rate with some type of monitor. Many fitness watches/chest strap heart rate monitors will track your heart rate and convert this data into an estimated calories burned for the duration of your exercise.
  • Muscle Fatigue – Another food indication of a great workout is to be sore on the days following your workout. Fatigued muscles indicate that they were recently broken down by over exertion. To increase in strength, your muscles first must be broken down so they can repair themselves. As they repair themselves, they are strengthened and enlarged. If you take part in physical activity on Monday but aren’t sore Tuesday or Wednesday, it’s likely you didn’t increase in muscular stamina. But you still may have strengthened your cardiovascular system. So muscle fatigue isn’t a sure-fire way to determine physical efficiency.

You work out to improve your health and overall fitness level. A big part of a successful workout routine is mental, and if sweating helps motivate you so that you feel more successful, then you should use that to your advantage. However, focus on overall health gains instead of on how much you sweat for a better gauge of your work-out effectiveness.

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