We are conditioned to think that we have to be a hot sweaty mess after a workout such that if we are not perspiring profusely thereafter, we think that the workout has not been effective. However, is this really true?

Why do we sweat?

Sweating is a cooling mechanism for the body. When we exercise, our body heats up increasing our core temperatures. In response, we sweat to bring our core body temperatures back to equilibrium. From that perspective, there is a correlation between sweating and physical activity. But just because there is a correlation between the two does not mean that one equates to the other.

In other words, while sweating is an indication of exercise, the amount in which you sweat does not necessarily reflect the effectiveness of the exercise session. Craig Ballantyne, certified trainer and author of Turbulence Training says that: “sweat depends on a lot of factors, most notably genetics and ambient temperature. You could do 60 minutes of cardio and perspire a lot, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be fitter than if you did 10 minutes of less-sweaty interval training.”

Ballantyne goes on to say that heart racing cardio workouts do not actually torch as many calories as one would think. “Cardio doesn’t address strength, leads to overuse injuries, is highly over-rated for fat loss, and doesn’t improve total body muscle endurance.” This means that while sweat drenching exercises such as a cycling class or pounding the treadmill can keep you fit, make you feel great, and burn a reasonable number of calories, it isn’t the be-all, end-all for the fat burn that so many of us think it is. 

If sweat level really meant something, then workouts that didn’t reduce one to a sweat-soaked mess, such as Pilates and yoga, wouldn’t be so effective at keeping you toned and fit. Yet, evidence has shown that this is simply not true. As Ballantyne says: “Being in shape means improving health, endurance, and building core muscles, all of which you can do without sweating.”


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