Are You a Sweater?

Do you feel like you don’t sweat enough during your workout compared to others in the gym? Do you think that means you are not working as hard as the next person? Do you think because you’re not sweating as much that you are not burning as many calories? You might want to reconsider this thought pattern. Sweating is not an appropriate measure of how hard you exercise or how many calories you burn. There are many factors which play into the amount of perspiration an individual experiences during a workout (or throughout the day for that matter).

There are two types of sweat glands: the apocrine and eccrine glands. The eccrine gland helps lower the body’s temperature by secreting sweat through skin pours and when the moisture evaporates it cools the skin and blood nearby. Generally, when blood temperature rises, sweat is used to draw it back down to a more comfortable level which allows the brain to maintain a certain temperature imperative for proper function. When the apocrine gland secretes sweat, it is usually triggered by stress or fear. However, there are more factors that play into how much a person sweats, not just how hard they work. Genetics, gender, age, humidity, and temperature share a part in dictating how much a person sweats.

People of Scandinavian and European descent are genetically predisposed to sweat more than people of Asian descent. Men have a greater tendency to sweat more than women. Younger adults tend to sweat more than their seniors. People of greater weight are more inclined to sweat compared to others of lesser weight. If you live in areas of high humidity, you tend to sweat more because evaporation happens slower. If you live in hotter regions your body’s air conditioning is also on a higher setting.

The main point is that you should use the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) as the indicator of how hard you work, not how much you sweat. Simply put, on a scale of 1-10 (1 is lying in bed and ten being climbing Mount Everest) where do you find yourself when exercising? An ideal range to exercise for most people is between 4-8.

As a person becomes more conditioned their idea of how hard they work will adjust too. Think about a time when you were in not as good a shape as you are now. Imagine a friend asking you to run a mile with them. You go for the run, and on the RPE scale, you rated it a 9 because it had been a long time since you had gotten off the lazy boy. However, you decided to get back in running form and began jogging several times a week. A couple of months pass, and your friend asked again to run a mile with you. This time you rated the mile run as a 4 on the RPE scale. Your perception of how hard you work adjusted because your body had adapted to the training program. So the next time you are in working out and the big guy next to you is sweating so much he could grow rice, don’t compare yourself to him. Hand him a towel and ask him to wipe down everything he touches. Be confident that you know how much you can push and that a sopping t-shirt is not necessarily the telltale sign.