Sweat is more than a sign of a workout done right—it’s essential for overall health.
BY HEATHER QUINLAN
Avoiding sweat has become a big market. Everything from heavy duty prescription deodorants to a process involving Botox injections into your armpits is available to stop a bodily function that can be a nuisance in social and work settings. The emergence of this market shows how far we’ve gotten away from what nature intended because sweating is an essential physiological function. As your body temperature rises, due to metabolism or working muscles, your nervous system kicks into gear and gets your sweat glands working to cool your body temperature. It’s a simple process and it might just hold the keys to your long-term health.
Cardiovascular activity improves heart health, increases feel good hormones, increases metabolism, and relieves stress and tension in the body. Similarly, a 15-20 minute sauna session increases your heart rate as your body heats up, your blood vessels begin to expand, allowing for more blood to occur and ultimately improving your overall circulation by building of new capillaries so more oxygen and carbon dioxide can be delivered and removed from your muscles. Once you’ve accomplished that, here’s the best part: you will be better able to relax. The tension in your muscles that you typically hold with stress will just melt away.
Instituting your own regular sweat therapy, in addition to regular exercise, can be as simple as going to the sauna or taking a steam bath. Better yet, you can combine your workout with your sweat therapy in a Bikram Yoga class; the temperature in the room is 105 degrees at 40% humidity, facilitating an unrivaled “flushing” effect on your system and promoting better joint mobility.
Ancient societies understood this better than we do today. Sweat rituals, or fever-inducing therapies can be dated back as far as 900 B.C. with the Mayan Sweat House. Sweat rituals can actually be found in most cultures around the world from the American Indians, to the Romans, the Russians and the Japanese. All of these rituals were created for the purpose of promoting physical and mental health, as well as promoting spirituality. Even today, in the Finnish culture, a sauna in the home is not considered a luxury but a health necessity. The Journal of the American Medical Association says that regular use of a sauna “may impart a similar stress on the cardiovascular system as running and its regular use may be as effective at burning calories.” That’s by no means a license to ditch regular exercise, but as a supplement to your regular training regimen, the use of a sauna only has upside.
But more than anything else, don’t forget how a good sweat session makes you feel—accomplished, vital, healthy, and afterward, relaxed and focused. Make it a priority to train hard and sweat every day and you’ll improve other areas of your life without even trying.
Heather Quinlan is a certified Bikram Yoga instructor and a health and wellness coach. Follow her on Facebook and contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published in Robert Irvine Magazine.