Sweating is a biological process that happens to all of us on a daily basis. For most of us who live in tropical countries, we try to avoid sweating as much as possible. This is especially so if you live in hot and humid countries such as Singapore.
Yet there are many health benefits to sweating that are very important for our health and overall well-being. It is hard to imagine that the biological process behind sweaty armpits, hands, feet, and back is precisely the reason that enables humans to adapt and survive in a hot environment.
Why Do We Sweat?
Though sweating is hardly appreciated by most of us, it is important for us to know why our bodies have such a function.
Our skin is the largest organ of the body. It acts like our kidneys, filtering toxins out of the body, essentially building our immune system and keeping us healthy.
In addition, secreting sweat from the skin is also the body’s natural reaction to an increase in the core body temperature. Sweating cools the body and maintains a stable body temperature of about 37 degrees Celsius.
There are two ways in which we sweat:
ECCRINE GLANDS They produce sweat to regulate body temperature and are found all over the body.
APOCRINE GLANDS These glands are found close to the hair follicles especially around the underarms. They produce sweat that are triggered mainly by emotional stressors, such as fear and anxiety. The production of sweat from apocrine glands are closely linked to body odor.
After a period of vigorous exercise, you are bound to sweat buckets. This natural response brings about a lot of health benefits that are not widely known to many people.
ELIMINATION OF SALT Our sweat is salty because it contains excess salt that we consume in the food we eat. The elimination of salt from the body helps to prevent stones from forming in the kidney.
CONSUMPTION OF WATER Losing water by way of secreting sweat from the body leads to increased thirst. It causes us to drink more water, bringing about more health benefits associated with drinking water.
IMPROVEMENT OF SKIN HEALTH When we sweat, it opens our pores on the face releasing bacteria and toxin from under the skin. At the same time, it purges the debris and clogs that are associated with pimples and acne.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Sweating?
We’ve long associated sweating with an uncomfortable and icky feeling. However, sweating every once and a while does have its benefits.
1. Sweating During A Workout
Sweat is often produced by physical exertion. So after an intense workout session, we often find ourselves out of breath and sweating from lifting dumbbells, running several kilometres, or what have you. It goes without saying that sweat accompanied by a workout can lead to several benefits.
For instance, exercise helps the body produce mood-boosting or feel-good hormones like endorphins. In a recent study, it was found that adults who spent at least 60 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) experienced a significant increase in endorphins produced. This is in comparison to those who spent less than an hour on exercise.
Another benefit of sweating during exercise is that it helps cool down your body. During high-intensive activities, your body produces energy, with 20% of that used in muscle contraction. Eighty percent of that energy is converted into heat, causing an increase in body temperature.
Sweating helps reduce your body heat, preventing you from overheating. Temperature regulation during a workout is crucial, especially during outdoor activities (when the weather is warm) or when you’re working out in a poorly-ventilated area.
2. Sweating Helps Reduce Chemicals
We encounter different chemicals daily, whether we’re aware of it or not. One such chemical is called BPA or bisphenol A, used in polycarbonate plastic production. It’s found almost everywhere, such as eyewear, water bottles, epoxy resins, food packaging, water pipes, etc.
Sweating is effective in reducing our body exposure to BPA. A study found that sweating can potentially remove BPA from the body. Additionally, it also found that sweat-testing may be effective in BPA bio-monitoring.
3. Sweating Detoxifies The Body
You’ve probably heard of the term “juice cleanse” before. But did you know you can also go on a detox without drinking only juices from fruits and vegetables?
According to a study, sweat contains waste products which are an offshoot of our body’s digestive process. Sweating is the body’s way of excreting those waste products through our pores or small holes which allow sweat to come out and go to the skin’s surface.
So, don’t be afraid to go on a sweat detox every once in a while. You’re doing your body a favour by helping rid it off excess waste.
4. Sweating Helps Reduce Illnesses
Sweating or perspiration can also help combat illnesses (like tuberculosis) and other harmful pathogens. This is because sweat has antimicrobial peptides effective against bacteria, fungi, and viruses. These peptides are positively-charged, meaning they attract negatively-charged bacteria and subsequently break them down.
Further, sweat contains dermcidin, a natural antimicrobial peptide which is secreted by our sweat glands. Compared to antibiotics, dermcidin is more beneficial in the long-term, as germs cannot easily develop a resistance against them.
5. Sweating Helps Reduce Acne And Pimples
Sweating requires our pores to open up. If we don’t exfoliate our skin, we run the risk of developing clogged pores, due to buildup from dead skin cells or chemical residue from lotions, toners, cleansers, and cosmetic products.
Sweating is the body’s way of preventing dead skin cells and other chemical residues from getting trapped in our pores.
But, don’t overdo it by leaving the sweat to dry on your skin. Instead, practise good habits by wearing loose clothing or taking a bath after an intense exercise. These allow you to maximise the benefits of sweating and avoid trapping bacteria, oil, and debris in your skin.
What If We Sweat Too Much?
Hyperhidrosis, or commonly referred to as excessive sweating, is a rather common disorder which can disrupt your normal daily activities. For some serious cases, you may sweat so excessively even though you are at rest. Such heavy sweating can sometimes soak through your clothes or drip off your hands.
Excessive sweating can impact a person’s quality of life and cause social embarrassment. People who suffer from hyperhidrosis often find the condition quite distressing.
Treatments For Excessive Sweating
Botox is often associated with wrinkle treatment. It may come as a surprise to many, but Botox is also particularly effective for temporarily treating excessive sweating.
Mircro-injections of Botox block the nerve signals responsible for sweating, stopping the sweat glands from secreting too much sweat.
Repeat treatment is often required every four to six months. You may realize that intervals can be longer with each repeated treatment.
Botox treatment for sweating is well-tolerated by patients and results can be seen within a couple of weeks. Areas with more nerve endings such as palms or feet may experience more discomfort. However, numbing cream can be applied before the treatment to reduce the pain.
Frequently Asked Questions About Benefits Of Sweating
Is It Okay To Sweat Every Day?
Yes. Sweating in normal amounts is essential to several natural processes in our body. Excessive or little sweating may lead to several problems. For example, sweating too little can cause your body to overheat. Meanwhile, excessive sweating can have harmful psychological impacts.
Does Sweating Help Burn Fat?
Although there is no scientific evidence to suggest sweating can help burn fat, the cooling process after a workout is a good sign your body is burning calories.
Does Sweating Clear Your Skin?
Yes. Sweating is our body’s natural way of getting rid of minerals and natural salt. It’s a natural exfoliation process which declogs our pores and eliminates other impurities and dirt from the skin.
Will I Sweat Less If I Exercise?
Generally, fit individuals sweat more than people with inactive or sedentary lifestyles. But if fit people and their less-fit counterparts do the same activity, less-fit individuals tend to sweat more. This is because they need to use up much more energy to exert the same effort on the same activity.