Inspired To Run

Working up a Sweat


Does the above problem sound familiar? If so, read on. Obviously we all sweat when training, be it a few drops on the forehead or what feels like sweating buckets. But when should we start getting worried? Is excessive sweating normal? Nicholas Tam, exercise scientist at the UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine based at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa explains the basics of sweating.

Sweating helps the body to stay cool, so it’s normal for runners to sweat when they run. The only time excessive sweating can be a problem is when you notice that you sweat even at rest. This is a medical condition known as hypohidrosis and it can be clinically diagnosed by a specialist physician.

There is no need to be worried when you sweat excessively when exercising. It is not a health problem but only an increased individual sweat response during exercise that is greater than the average person.

This sweat response is often determined by your genetics and whether you are acclimatized to your surrounding environment. It may be embarrassing but sweating is your body’s natural mechanism that allows it to dissipate heat generated (from muscles working) during exercise that would otherwise disturb your physiological function. This aids in keeping you both cool and able to perform exercise optimally.

Also, remember men sweat more than women; one reason is that men tend to have more muscle than women. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue and its heat generation is greater than its heat dissipation which means a greater sweating response to counteract the heat generated. A second reason is that men tend to have a smaller body surface area to body mass ratio which means a greater sweat response to dissipate heat generated by the body during exercise.

Participating in indoor activities such as aerobics will not deter your heightened sweat response. Believe it or not but it might even seem worse; since there is less airflow and radio-active heat in indoor gyms that will hamper sweat evaporation which in turn will result in you feeling more wet.

Try not to be self-conscious about your sweat because you will realise there are plenty of people sweating excessively around you. Unfortunately there is not much conservative treatment available to prevent this increased sweat rate.

The right gear is essential in keeping it under control to some extent. Unfortunately some clothing such as your traditional cotton T-shirts are not as breathable and cool as some newer technical materials. These new technical materials are lighter, more breathable and do not hold onto your sweat as much as the cotton material does which will keep you cool and dry during exercise. So it is advisable to invest in a few good quality breathable t-shirts.

• You should especially worry when you are sweating whilst at rest (not during exercise) and night sweats (whilst sleeping). If this happens, you should consult your doctor.
• The signs are usually sweaty palms and experiencing feelings of embarrassment, not wanting to engage with people because of sweating.
• Excessive sweating that returns to normal after exercise is really just an increased response that the body uses to deal with the heat produce during work.