Some people will do anything to avoid sweating. Even if they do a workout, they do it half-heartedly, never really breaking a sweat. But sweating is actually good for you, and not just because of the many benefits that exercise brings. It can even help to heal the body. Whether you’re taking a walk on a warm day, exercising, or sitting in a sauna, it provides multiple healing effects.
Here’s eight reasons why you really need to sweat, each and every day.
An increasing amount of research has emerged in recent years, lauding the detox abilities of sweat. It helps to clear out all sorts of toxins, from heaving metals to persistent organic pollutants. Eliminating those is important for your good health, so let’s take a closer look at the hows and whys.
Heavy metals. Many ordinary, everyday products contain toxic metals, including the foods we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. While we do need trace amounts of a few metals, too much can result in serious health problems, according to numerous studies. When too much is accumulated, it can cause symptoms from joint and muscle pain to fatigue, headache, constipation, and more. Sweating can help to counteract this problem, as: studies have found, sweat contains about 24 times more cadmium, 19 times more nickel, 16 times more lead, and almost three times more aluminum than urine. Overall, sweat is more effective than urine at removing the majority of heavy metals.
Bisphenol A. Bisphenol A, or BPA as it’s often referred to, is considered an endocrine disrupter, a chemical that mimics estrogen. It’s been found to have many potential negative effects, including infertility problems. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital published findings in 2013 that demonstrated BPA exposure can affect egg maturation in humans, and evidence has also been uncovered that shows it can interfere with endocrine function involving the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. The experts suggested that this type of action can affect puberty and ovulation, and that it may lead to infertility. BPA has also been linked to breast and prostate cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
When scientists examined the blood, urine, and sweat of volunteers for BPA, of the 20 sweat samples collected, 16 contained BPA, while just 14 urine and 2 blood samples tested positive for the toxin. That means sweating will help you eliminate this compound from your body.
Phthalates. Phthalates are found in plastic products, and are a toxic chemical that is eliminated through sweat. They’re well known to interfere with production of the male hormone testosterone, and have been linked to reproductive abnormalities as well. They’re also on the State of California’s list of toxic substances “known to cause birth defects or reproductive harm.”
A 2003 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives suggested that environmental levels of phthalates are linked to altered DNA integrity in human sperm. Sweat is the best way to get rid of this toxic chemical as well, with one study revealing that the concentrations of phthalates in sweat were more than twice as high as urine levels.
Persistent organic pollutants. POPs, which include insecticides, fumigants and solvents are potentially harmful too, with many adverse effects on one’s health, as studies have shown. Even low levels of POPs can lead, among others, to immune system problems, a higher cancer risk, reproductive disorders, neurobehavioral issues, endocrine disruption and increased birth defects. When testing study participants for POPs, a clinical study found that sweat samples contained nearly all parent compounds of pesticides, revealing that sweating is highly effective for reducing this toxic burden as well.
As mentioned, sweating helps us to heal as well. In fact, science is just beginning to uncover the important role sweat glands play when it comes to healing all sorts of wounds. Sweat glands, which are distributed throughout the skin, have been found in studies to contain stem cells which are crucial for healing wounds. One 2012 study published in the Journal Cell, discovered that sweat glands had four different varieties of adult stem cell populations which displayed distinct degenerative capabilities.
As the body produces its own uplifting chemicals that are known as endorphins, it is possible to raise these “happy hormone” levels in the brain through sweating induced by exercise. Exercising, or simply being active enough to break a sweat is well known to increase endorphins. These are considered natural painkillers as they activate opioid receptors in the brain that help minimize discomfort, and can also help bring about feelings of euphoria and general well-being.
The effects of endorphins are so powerful, that they can even be more effective at fighting depression than an antidepressant, the most commonly prescribed medication for Americans aged 18 to 44, and the third most common drug across all ages. The problem with those drugs, is that they come with a long list of side effects, including liver damage, insomnia, anxiety, hostility, suicidal behavior, violent behavior, reduced sex drive, weight gain, nausea, constipation, fatigue, headaches, a higher stroke risk, birth defects and miscarriages as well as sudden cardiac death – and that’s only naming a few. Working up a sweat is a much better way to attack persistent sadness, without the harmful and unwanted side effects.
4. Slow or Prevent Alzheimer’s disease
Research has also found that physical activity that breaks a sweat even has the power to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease, or prevent it altogether. Conducted by Cleveland Clinic researchers and published in the May 2014 issue of Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, the scientists found that exercise may help keep the brain healthy in those who have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The results also suggested that even just moderate amounts of physical activity can help slow the progression of this horrific aging disease.
5. Fight Off a Cold or the Flu
Sweating has long been recommended for speeding the recovery of a cold or the flu, and studies have confirmed this, including one 2013 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which found that a natural antibiotic is naturally activated in salty, slightly acidic sweat. If you have minor symptoms, you can exercise to sweat, otherwise, you may want to head to a sauna. That sauna heat not only makes you sweat, it may help to improve drainage, and the high temperature serves to weaken cold and flu viruses.
6. Reducing the Risk of Kidney Stones
Sweating helps to support healthy kidney functioning as well by eliminating some of the salt and calcium in your bloodstream. In turn, that reduces the amount of salt and calcium in your urine which can lead to kidney stones. At the same time, the loss of water that results from sweating, whether you’re sweating because of summer heat or working out, leads to less urine production. The more you sweat, the less you urinate, which can allow stone-causing minerals to settle and bond in the kidneys and urinary tract.
So while it’s important to sweat to reduce your risk of kidney stones, it’s also important to drink plenty of water to avoid the opposite effect.
7. Enhancing Memory
Researchers have found that hitting the gym hard enough to sweat can enhance memory too. One study out of the Georgia Institute of Technology found that an intense workout for as little as 20 minutes can enhance episodic memory, AKA long-term memory for previous events, by as much as ten percent in healthy young adults.
The research published in the journal Acta Psychologica, used weight exercises, though the experts noted that resistance activities like squats or knee bends would likely produce the same results – any workout that makes you sweat. The volunteers looked at a series of 90 images on a computer screen, which were evenly split between positive images like kids playing in the water, negative pictures like mutilated bodies and neutral photos, such as clocks.
They weren’t asked to try and remember them. After viewing the images, they sat at a leg extension resistance exercise machine. Half of them extended and contracted each leg at their personal maximum effort 50 times. The control group sat in the chair and allowed the machine and the experimenter to move their legs. Each participant’s blood pressure and heart rate were monitored throughout, and they also contributed saliva samples so that levels of neurotransmitter markers linked to stress could be detected. After 48 hours, participants returned to view a series of 180 pictures that included the 90 original images and 90 new ones. The control group recalled about 50 percent of the photos from the first session. Those who exercised remembered about 60 percent, showing a rather significant boost.
8. A Clearer Complexion
Sweating, whether you workout or sit in a sauna, helps to open up your pores and get rid of dirt, grime and other debris. If that’s left to accumulate, it encourages bacteria to build up in your pores, ultimately resulting in a breakout. Sweat carries with it the grime of what’s built up in your pores and what’s on your face, and if it settles back into your skin, voila, breakouts, rashes, irritated skin.
How To Sweat More Often
Any type of exercise can be a good way to break a sweat, such as a brisk walk, run, swim, hike or bike ride. The key is to find a type of physical activity that you enjoy, and doesn’t feel like work. When the weather doesn’t allow you to get outside, there are many ways to workout indoors at home, such as:
Dancing. Just turn up your music and dance around. You don’t need to know how to dance, just have fun! It can lift your spirits and give your heart a great workout.
Lifting weights with household objects. Just use whatever you have at home to strengthen your arm muscles such as water jugs or laundry detergent bottles while working up a sweat. Alternatively, you can invest in a set of household weights, or a kettlebell.
Jumping jacks or jumping rope. You can perform jumping jacks or pretend like you’re jumping rope – an actual rope isn’t necessary, but if you happen to have one all the better.
Workout Videos. From DVDs to YouTube and everything in between, there are a wealth of workout options to choose from that will allow you to exercise in the comfort of your home.
Sitting in a sauna is another good way to sweat. When researchers compared an infrared sauna to a steam sauna, they found that the sweat from the infrared sauna contained more bismuth, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and uranium. The steam sauna caused higher levels of arsenic, aluminum, cobalt, copper, manganese, nickel, lead, tin, thallium, and zinc to be excreted. You can even do your own infrared sauna at home.
It’s also important to note once again, that staying hydrated is essential for enjoying the health benefits of sweating, whether it’s from exercise or sitting in a sauna. If you aren’t sure how much to drink, one easy way to figure it out is to weigh yourself right before and after sweating – the weight lost is the amount of water you should drink after to rehydrate yourself. For reference, one pound of water is about 17 ounces.