Updated 08 May 2017

Is sweating a sign of a good workout?

Is the guy next to you in a puddle of sweat on the treadmill working harder than you, or does he just perspire more than you?


Have you ever been in a spinning class with everyone following the same routine, yet some people are drenched while others have barely broken a sweat? Does this mean the sweaty ones are working harder than the others? Not necessarily.

David Jenkin, (PhD in exercise physiology and senior lecturer in human movement studies at University of Queensland) says that there are numerous factors which can influence how much one sweats during exercise, such as outside temperature and humidity.

“The simplest way to tell if you're doing moderate intensity exercise is to do the 'talk test' – if you're exercising but are still able to converse comfortably then this is considered moderate intensity exercise. And you need to do this for at least 30 minutes every day to keep yourself healthy.”

Why we sweat

The body has two types of sweat glands: eccrine (that regulate body temperature) and apocrine (found in the arms and groin). How much sweat is released, however, is determined by many different factors, such as weight, age, fitness and gender. 

The more vigorously we move, the more our body temperature rises. The body counteracts this by activating the four million sweat glands all over the body. As water is released from our pores, our body releases heat and cools down. However, while some people are just genetically more predisposed to sweating, when it comes to exercise it is primarily the individual’s weight and fitness levels which impact their sweating.
Overweight people will sweat more, largely because their output requires more energy and there is a bigger surface area that the sweat glands need to cool down.

But fit people also sweat when they’re exercising, mostly due to the way their body has adapted to become more efficient at regulating their body temperature to keep them cool, which is what sweat does.
One study looked at the influence of aerobic fitness on sweating and compared sweating patterns of the aerobically fit and unfit. They found that when both the fit and unfit were at the same power output level, they had roughly the same total sweat output, but that there was a difference in where on the body they perspired more. The unfit participants appeared to sweat more on the forehead than the fit ones.

Avoiding early death

Sweating is essential for thermoregulation during exercise, and regardless of your fitness or weight, it’s essential to replenish your body with water during and after any exercise. 

If the thought of getting sweaty isn’t appealing, consider this finding from James Cook University which found that exercise vigorous enough to make you sweat may help you live longer.

According to co-author of the study, Dr Melody Ding from University of Sydney's School of Public Health, "Our research indicates that encouraging vigorous activities may help to avoid preventable deaths at an earlier age."

Read more:

Excessive sweating

Stop sweating so much

Botox can stop excessive sweating

This article is provided through a sponsorship from Pfizer in the interests of continuous medical education. Notwithstanding Pfizer's sponsorship of this publication, neither Pfizer nor its subsidiary or affiliated companies shall be liable for any damages, claims, liabilities, costs or obligations arising from the misuse of the information provided in this publication. 
Readers are advised to consult their health care practitioner for specific information on personal health matters as this is not the intention or purpose of the publication. Specific medical advice or recommendations on the clinical management of patients will not be provided by Pfizer. In this regard Pfizer does not support the use of products for off label indications, nor dosing which falls outside the approved label recommendations and readers must refer to the Package Insert of any product for full prescribing guidelines.



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