Ester Marsh column: The importance of sweating

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 15, 2016

Even with this cold weather, your body will still sweat to regulate your core temperature while exercising. However, your sweat might evaporate before you see it or even freeze if you are exercising outside! Many people complain when they sweat, but sweating is important for the following reasons:

• Sweating keeps your body from overheating. As it secretes fluids, it evaporates and the body starts to cool down. There are two different sweat glands — the eccrine sweat glands, which are located over the whole body (an average person can have 2-3 million sweat glands), and the apocrine glands, which are mainly located on scalp, armpits and genital area.

• Besides the importance of regulating the body temperature, sweating also expels toxins which supports a proper immune system. It kills viruses and bacteria that cannot survive in temperatures over 98.6 degrees. When sweating, your pores are being cleaned, preventing or eliminating blackheads and acne.

Typically, a female has more sweat glands but the male sweat glands tend to be more active and produce more sweat. I understand people not wanting to sweat when they are not exercising and/or the temperature is not high. There are prescription antiperspirants treatments available, and botox treatments can also be used for excessive perspiration. To avoid sweating profusely, you can try to avoid triggers like caffeine and wear natural materials such as cotton. The Dri-fit materials wick the sweat away so it can evaporate. Natural made material won’t do this — it gets wet and stays wet.

But don’t “sweat it” when you are sweating when exercising (or being in hot environment). Besides, all the important reasons mentioned above, sweating after a good workout or class really boosts your endorphins, the “feel good” hormones.

If you don’t sweat at all during exercise, the following reasons may be why:

• You are not working out hard enough. This is where we get in our target heart rate, which is 60-85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Max heart rate is 220 minus your age, and then take 60-85 percent of that number (well-trained athletes can go 90-95 percent. Many people exercise below their target heart rate and are really not getting the physical benefits during their workout and typically don’t sweat. An easier way to figure it out is perceived exertion. One a scale of 1-10, one being you are not doing anything and 10 means you are ready to pass out, you should be between 6 and 8.5 or 9.

Another reason for not sweating can be dehydration. Too many people don’t drink enough fluids such as water. I drink enough coffee but it actually dehydrates, and I have to be very aware when I hydrate. I am one of those people who can go without water for a long time, not a beneficial trait.

The best way to see if you stay hydrated is to weigh yourself before your workout and afterwards. For every pound lost, you need to replace it with 16-20 ounces of fluid. So how much should you drink?

I typically tell people drink half of your body weight in ounces in one day. So at 140 pounds, I should drink 70 ounces of fluids a day. So you don’t have a slushy stomach before exercising, drink 15-20 ounces two hours before your workout. About 15 minutes before, drink another 8-10 ounces and during your workouts, drink around 8 ounces every 15 minutes.

If you do all the things above and you are working out in your target heart rate zone and still don’t sweat, have your doctor check you out. Certain medications can prohibit sweating, or it could be a symptom of certain conditions. It could be an isolated condition called anhidrosis which is the inability to sweat. If you are not able to sweat, your body can’t cool itself and to work or exercise in high temperatures can be very dangerous and increase the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

So, don’t be afraid to sweat! Sweating is good for you. Just be respectful — one of the unofficial fitness etiquettes is to clean up after yourself when you sweat. I am right there with you — I must have male sweat glands!

Ester H Marsh Associate executive Director JF Hurley family YMCA