Sweating is one of the ways the human body cools itself down. Helping the body cool down is sweating's primary benefit, but it's not the only one. There are other ways that sweating that can help you stay healthy.
Five Important Functions of Sweating
1. Cools the Body Down
Sweating is a method for releasing excess heat; when your body begins to sweat, it's trying to regulate your temperature and make sure that you don't become overheated. The action of sweating, and then the sweat in turn evaporating from the skin, are what helps cool the body down. This is an important benefit of sweating, and one that provides significant protection to your body.
- Though some people may get embarrassed by their own sweating, this is simply a sign that their body is efficiently dealing with heat.
- People who can't sweat (a rare condition called Cystinosis) have to take extreme care to ensure they don't find themselves in situations where they will get overheated.
2. Expels Toxins
While some health experts (including Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen) suggest sweating as a means to detoxify the body, the idea that sweating expels harmful toxins from the body is a controversial one. For example, while the School of Medicine and Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that the use of a sauna for sweating is an effective way to expel toxins from the body, Harvard Medical School has a different stance, stating that saunas are generally safe but don't necessarily provide any health benefits beyond relaxation.
- A 2011 study did not provide any conclusive evidence with regards to sweat being a method for expelling toxins from the body, but did suggest that further study is needed.
- Even skeptical health experts state that seeking out sweating to detoxify the body using methods like saunas and exercise is generally safe for healthy individuals, as long as the fluid lost is quickly replenished.
3. Boosts Skin Health and Regrowth
The act of sweating opens up the skin's pores and helps unclog the pores, making it beneficial to skin. However, sweat that is allowed to dry on the skin without being cleaned off can actually promote skin problems. The trick is to sweat frequently to derive the full benefit of sweating, but to also make sure that the sweat is washed off with a gentle cleanser instead of allowing the sweat to dry and stay on the skin for hours.
An intriguing study published in The American Journal of Pathology suggests that sweat may actually act as the body's natural preparation for impending superficial injury to the skin, protecting the skin and poising it to heal. While more research is needed to explore this theory, researchers are excited by the initial results.
4. Fights Infection
Many health advocates make the broad claim that sweating helps the body fight infection and stay healthy. Research surrounding Dermcidin, a protein found on human skin, demonstrates supporting evidence of this claim.
Researchers in Europe say that Dermcidin jumps into action when it comes into contact with sweat and creates a natural antibiotic believed to be effective in treating tuberculosis and hospital superbugs. Sweat is needed to activate the natural healing properties of Dermcidin, making the act of sweating the way the body capitalizes upon this natural defense.
5. Psychological Benefits
Some folks feel as though they haven't achieved much in a workout if they aren't covered in sweat when they leave the gym. Sweat can be a tangible sign of physical exertion, helping exercisers feel as though they've really accomplished something with their physical efforts.
Many of the benefits sometimes attributed to sweating - such as improved circulation, lower blood pressure, and overall better health - may actually be the result of the physical activity causing the sweating. Sweat as a result of exercise is a good thing. In fact, athletes are more prone to sweating than others because their bodies have become more efficient at cooling them down while exercising.
The act of sweating itself does appear to have some benefits, but the longer list of benefits come into play when the sweat results from physical activity. Before intentionally seeking out sweating to enjoy the health benefits, speak to a physician to ensure your methods are appropriate for your level of fitness and health.