Is how much you sweat an indication of how good your workout is?

By LISBETH HOYT, PT, DPT & CSCS.

We all love a good sweat session. Whether it’s running, biking, or a strength workout, we tend to feel more accomplished if we’re sweaty and red-faced at the end of a workout. But is how much you sweat an indication of how “good” the workout was? Unfortunately… no.

Sweat is your body’s natural cooling process to regulate its internal temperature. Every body sweats differently. How much or how little you sweat is not an indicator of how productive your workout was. Think of an easy thirty-minute run on your usual route: you’re going to be a lot sweatier when you do that run in the middle of July compared to the middle of January. Now take that same run in July and try it on a treadmill inside an air-conditioned gym. Less sweaty than outside, but more sweaty than January.

Now, if we look specifically at heat training and purposeful acclimatization, there are fitness benefits. It’s important to remember that this is not caused by how much you sweat, but by the physiological adaptation process. A multi-study review of 96 articles looked at “the effects of heat adaptation on physiology, perception and exercise performance in the heat”. The review found improved exercise performance and better ratings of perceived exertion of training with heating training for less than two weeks, but the biggest adaptations consistently occurred when heat training lasted for more than two weeks.

So… happy fall! We’ve made it through a record-breaking hot summer. And whether you were training for a fall race or just keeping up your mileage, those runs you slogged through in hot and humid conditions are paying off! You may notice your easy run pace getting slightly faster without any effort, and it’s easier to maintain harder efforts for a little bit longer.

Tyler, C. J., Reeve, T., Hodges, G. J., & Cheung, S. S. (2016). Erratum to: The effects of heat adaptation on physiology, perception and exercise performance in the heat: A meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 46(11), 1771–1771. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-016-0572-3

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