I initially considered titling this piece, “The Beauty of Sweat.” Although sweating is something we normally try to avoid and conceal—at least when we want to look (and smell) presentable, it’s a pretty amazing thing. Sweat is so wonderful that I would argue that we should try to sweat every day! Need a little convincing? Not only does it help cool you off (duh), sweating is an important activity that detoxifies your body, helps regulate your moods, clears your skin, and wards off certain illnesses.
This is all nice in theory, but if you’ve ever gone without sweating (or exercising) for a long period of time, you’ll know how critical sweating regularly is when it comes to your general feeling of well-being. When I was unable to exercise for about a month due to a foot injury, I noticed that it had been a long time since I’d had a real sweat session, and I felt off. When I finally healed enough to go running, it was glorious—I was sweating, and it felt so right. Now I seek out opportunities to get a little sweaty! And you should, too—here’s why:
Sweating boosts your mood. We’ve heard about how exercise boost endorphins and how endorphins give us euphoric feelings. As it turns out, sweating also plays a role in keep our mood stable. According to Dr. James Ting, sweating activates temperature-sensitive neural circuits that regulate mood, reducing our chances of experiencing unpleasant mood swings. So, feeling stressed? Sweat it out!
Sweating detoxifies your body. Sweating is one of the most efficient ways to detoxify your body of excess salt, cholesterol, and alcohol as well as toxins that aren’t doing your body any favors. Researchers suggest that monitoring the level of toxins in sweat may be one of the most accurate ways of determining the body’s toxic load.
Sweating improves the appearance of skin. We know that regular exercise is good for improving blood circulation. Healthy circulation delivers a host of beauty benefits, including better nutrient absorption (with more blood flow to the skin) and radiant, glowing skin (with more oxygen delivered to the skin). Working up a sweat is a good sign that you’re getting in some beautifying, circulation-boosting activity.
Plus, awesome news for the acne-prone: As pores open to release sweat and any toxic substance it’s packing, it’s like our pores are being washed from inside out (a plus for clearer skin!). Just be sure to take a good shower right after your sweat session; you don’t want to let any unfriendly bacteria linger on your skin for too long.
Sweating eases physical pain. Extended physical exertion, which is usually accompanied by sweat, can help reduce muscle soreness. Remember those endorphins we discussed earlier? Aside from lifting our mood, they also work as natural painkillers. Bonus: there are no harmful side effects of endorphins—unlike their prescription counterparts.
Sweating helps you avoid getting sick. Our sweat is antimicrobial and has been credited with helping fend off tuberculosis and other nasty bugs. The antimicrobial peptides in sweat are known as dermcidin. Our own germ-fighting defenses may be more effective in the long term since bacteria does develop a resistance to them, which certainly isn’t the case with prescription antibiotics (not that those can’t be lifesavers when we really need them!).
What are your favorite ways to get your sweat on?
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Photo: Kevin Dooley via Flickr