Have you ever felt way sweatier than your mates in the gym? We asked the experts for their take on all things sweat.
When I work out, I sweat a lot. I’ve left my fair share of sweat angels on my gym mat, and I’ve even sweated in places I didn’t think it was possible (shins, anyone?) on particularly hot workouts. And to be honest, I find it embarrassing, even though I know it’s totally normal.
While getting a sweat on can be a sure sign you’re working out hard, why do some people sweat more than others? There arelots of urban myths surrounding this issue, from being dehydrated to being too fit or not fit enough. We asked the experts for their take.
Why do we sweat?
“Sweat is a very normal bodily function,” says consultant plastic surgeon Mr Hazim Sadideen. “Its main role is to help us control our body temperature and eliminate toxins. As the water from sweat evaporates, the surface of the skin cools down, which is why we sweat more in hot weather or with physical exertion.”
There are also many other perspiration triggers, including reactions to spicy foods and hot drinks or emotional responses to stress or anxiety. The experts agree that whatever the cause, sweat is a crucial bodily function.
Maintaining body temperature
“The body functions best within an optimal temperature range, and sweating is the body’s way of maintaining that,” Dr Folusha Oluwajana, a sport and exercise expert and personal trainer, previously told Stylist. “Our sweat glands are stimulated when our internal or external temperature increases. During exercise we generate heat, which increases our body temperature. We sweat to cool ourselves down so that we can exercise for longer.”
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Without the ability to sweat, we would be at risk of heatstroke, so besides being great at cooling us down, research shows us that sweat is also great at boosting our immune systems and strengthening our cardiovascular systems.
With this in mind, maybe we need to get on board with the idea that sweat is actually a good thing, and the more we sweat, the healthier we are.
Do some people really sweat more than others?
“The amount we sweat is multifactorial and differs from person to person,” says Sadideen.
“How much we sweat depends on the number, density and activity of sweat glands we have; some people have a greater and more productive number of glands,” explains Sadideen.
“We have sweat glands all over our bodies, but the heavy, smelly sweat we usually think of comes from the apocrine glands, which are concentrated in hair follicles of the armpits, groin and scalp. The odour is a combination of bacteria and the breakdown of apocrine sweat.”
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So why do some really fit people seem to sweat so much? Sadideen breaks it down:
“Typically, bigger people tend to sweat more as they generate more heat when moving, meaning they require more perspiration to cool the body down.”
And the good news for us sweaty folk is it really is a sign that you’re in good shape. Sadideen explains: “The more muscle you have, the more you will sweat, as muscle mass generates more sweat than fat. Added to this, the fitter you are, the more you’re inclined to sweat, as you’re working harder, therefore producing more heat within the body that needs to be cooled down to avoid over-heating.”
Aesthetics nurse Nina Prisk tells Stylist: “Hormones play a huge part in how much a person sweats. When we experience hormone imbalances, such as during pregnancy and menopause, this can result in increased sweating.” Hello, night sweats.
In addition, Prisk says: “Alcohol can affect your natural hormone balance as well as increasing your heart rate, which can cause sweating.” That might explain why you’re drenched during a post-pub Parkrun.
“Age is also a factor,” says Sadideen. “As we age, we become less tolerant of heat and therefore sweat more to cool ourselves down efficiently. Our sweat glands also change as we get older, contributing to age-related sweat changes.”
How to deal with sweat
Since there’s no escaping it, Prisk advises a multi-pronged approach to managing your perspiration.
“Wearing clothes made of breathable material can help to reduce sweating and using an antiperspirant will help.” Think absorbent, fast-drying and moisture-wicking workout clothes, and effective deodorant.”
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Watch out for changes in sweat patterns
“Sickness and certain health conditions can cause us to sweat more,” says Sadideen, “and while it’s important to remember that sweat is a vital bodily function and occurs to keep us healthy, if you are concerned about excess sweat, it’s important to consult your GP to rule out any possible medical conditions.”
Whatever the cause, it’s high time we change the narrative around sweat. Let’s embrace what our bodies can do, in all their sweaty, smelly glory.
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