No sweat no gain: Truth or Fiction?

Lee E Lyn
BPharm (Hons), MSc, RPh

Article 1 feature image (No sweat no gain)

I’m drenched in sweat. That would mean I’ve exercised enough, right?

In my attempts to try and be fit, I’ve asked my personal trainer once: “I’m not sweating enough. What am I not doing right?”, to which he replied, “Sweating is not a good gauge of how much calories you’ve burned”. Intrigued, I went to search for more information.

Firstly, sweating is a way that our bodies prevent itself from overheating. When we exercise, our body heats up and triggers sweat production, which then evaporates off our skin to cool us down. It is also important to note that everyone is unique, that the amount of sweat produced depends on factors including the environmental temperature, humidity, personal fitness, and the number of sweat glands we have. It is why that some people will be drenched in sweat just by walking to the grocery store while others look fresh even after 30 minutes on the treadmill.

We have always associated sweating with calories burned, and this is actually not accurate. In fact, to measure calories burned, the duration and intensity of our workouts are most important. The World Health Organization and Malaysian Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. In addition, there are other types of exercises such as resistance or strengthening exercises and flexibility exercises such as yoga which are recommended 2-3 times a week.

So, the next time we hit the gym or train for a marathon, remember that sweating is a process to cool down our bodies to help us maintain a steady body temperature. It is by no means a good workout indicator and does not equate to the amount of calories we burn. Instead, keep track of our workout duration and intensity.

References:

  1. Malaysian Dietary Guidelines 2010. National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition, Ministry of Health Malaysia.
  2. Global recommendations on physical activity for health. World Health Organization. Available from: http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_recommendations/en/
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