Here's Why You Don't Have to Sweat to Get a Great Workout

Exploring one of the most prevalent workout myths.

When it comes to exercise, the common assumption is that if you haven't broken a sweat, you haven't made any progress, but just how true is that? According to the research, it's not true at all. So read on to learn why one of the most common myths about exercise persists—and why you should banish it from your thinking entirely. And to learn more about exercising smarter and more effectively immediately, don't miss The 30 Biggest Exercise Myths.

The Sweat Gland Bias

man woman deadlift build muscle

First of all, some people are just naturally more sweaty than others, as you're born with between 2 million and 4 million sweat glands in your body. Research has shown that, while women have more sweat glands, male sweat glands are more active, which is why men tend to get more sweaty during the same exact workout. Additionally, people who are more fit tend to sweat less, because their bodies are more conditioned to intense exercise, and it takes a lot more to increase their core body temperature.

Two Types of Sweat

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It's odd that we allocate so much importance to sweat given that it happens in so many non-calorie burning scenarios, like when it's hot our or when we're super nervous for a date. The truth is though, not all sweat is made equal, sweat is produced by two different glands.

When you're sweating because you're stressed out, your sweat comes from your apocrine glands, and the sweat itself is composed of more fatty acids and protein, and therefore more prone to smell bad. When you're sweating because your body is hot, the sweat is released from the eccrine sweat glands, which is made up of water, salt, and potassium. And for more health knowledge, here are 20 Amazing Facts You Never Knew about Your Body. 

It's Just Water Weight

sweaty woman

When you sweat during an exercise, it's because your raising your body temperature, not because you're necessarily burning more calories, which means it's the same sweat that you produce on a hot day. You don't consider sweating at the beach exercise, right? Now, granted, it is true that a lot of people feel lighter when they sweat profusely during a workout, which is partially why sweaty yoga and hot pilates is so in fashion now, but that's just water weight.

"When you lose weight with sweat, you primarily lose water weight; and losing water weight is transient," Dr. Jeff Weinstein, a liver specialist at Methodist Dallas, told WFAA. "[You don't] achieve a state of physical fitness just by sweating by itself. There has to be something else to go with it."

Don't Sweat It

sweaty muscular man

Now, sweating does have a healthy purpose in that it releases toxins from the body. And it's worth noting that exercises that cause the body to sweat tend to burn more calories than those that do not (a 60 minute spin class, for example, will burn an average of 482 calories, as opposed to 60 minutes of yoga, which only burns 172). But that's simply because they burn more energy. But doing a hot yoga class will not burn more calories than a regular class unless it requires more physical exertion.

The bottom line?  "Sweat is not a gauge of how hard you are working," Jenny Scott, Education Advisor for the National Academy of Sports Medicine, told Women's Health.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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