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Sweat It Out

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My best friend, Kim, never sweats. Instead, a light film of glistening moisture begins to cover her skin as her workout progresses from the warm-up to a more intense stage.

My best friend, Kim, never sweats. Instead, a light film of glistening moisture begins to cover her skin as her workout progresses from the warm-up to a more intense stage.

I have only heard of one instance where she broke a bead that ran down her forehead onto her cheek. With great pride, she exclaimed, “I’m sweating!” I immediately rushed over to the stationary bike she was riding to witness the event because it truly was a one-in-a-million chance.

Then there’s me. Within a few minutes of initiating any type of cardiovascular exercise, my brow is covered with sweat, and I can feel my shirt desperately trying to cling to my back.

Sweat and Fitness

Many people make the assumption that the longer it takes a person to break a sweat, the better shape that person is in. I’ve heard friends on the gym floor whispering to each other as they watch someone drenched in sweat on the treadmill, “He must be so out of shape. His shirt is soaked, and he’s only been walking for a few minutes!” or “After all these months, she still sweats like crazy. It’s really taking her a long time to get in shape.”

The fact is that sweating doesn’t necessarily indicate a low fitness level. While poor physical condition makes it more difficult to cope with the demands increased heat puts on the body, each of us handles this stress in different ways regardless of fitness level. Sweating is only one of them.

Sweating–It’s a Good Thing

A body at work generates heat faster than one at rest. Naturally, the more strenuous an activity is, the more heat will be created. It’s critical that this heat is moved from the body to the surrounding environment as efficiently and quickly as possible to avoid disturbing the finely tuned balance of internal functions.

Our internal thermostat is set to 98.6°F (37°C). When we are exposed to extreme emotional stress, heat, or challenging exercise, this temperature tries to increase. In response, veins and capillaries expand, the heart beats faster, and blood flow to the outer layers of skin increases. This allows heat to radiate to the cooler exterior environment.

People who are able to use blood flow as their major cooling mechanism tend to look pink or red in the face, showing little, if any, signs of sweat (my friend Kim). However, if the body cannot cool itself quickly enough by this process, the brain signals sweat glands to release sweat through the skin surface (this is me).

Different Glands, Different Sweat

Our skin has two types of sweat glands. The average person has between two and five million eccrine glands, which are found over most of the body. These glands are responsible for producing the clear, salty sweat we are familiar with.

Eccrine glands open directly onto the surface of the skin and secrete fluid for evaporation to help regulate body temperature. Ninety-nine percent of this fluid is water, but the remaining one percent carries waste products for elimination such as unnecessary copper, zinc, lead, mercury, nickel, and cadmium, in addition to excessive sodium, potassium, calcium, urea, ammonia, uric acid, and phosphorus.

Apocrine glands are found in specific areas of the body such as the scalp, underarms, and genital area. These glands secrete fatty sweat containing protein and carbohydrates. The bacterial breakdown of this type of sweat on the skin’s surface is usually responsible for offensive body odour.

Certain foods, drugs, or medical conditions can also affect your particular body scent. The healthier a person is, the less likely they are to emit unfavourable body odour.

While it may be an annoyance, sweating is essential to your health. It regulates body temperature, rids the body of wastes and helps to keep the skin clean and pliant. Although your body internally sifts through and rids itself of toxic materials picked up from the environment on a daily basis, a serious sweat once a day will further help your body to detoxify by picking up and eliminating just a little bit more–confirming the rewards of sweating are far greater than the mild discomfort it may cause.

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