Why Do You Sweat?

Sweat...it happens in the most absurd places, and when you least expect it. Maybe it's when you hop off the treadmill to go stretch, when you're in a meeting about to make a presentation, or at lunch eating a plate full of spicy habaneros. You feel the moisture developing on your upper lip, under your arms or even in your pants. What's going on and why does this happen?

First things first; you want to sweat. Sweating is normal. Everyone needs this bodily function to naturally cool off and get rid of excess heat from working muscles, detoxify dissolved solids, and send sodium (salt) back into the blood to maintain salinity in the body. There are over 4 million sweat glands in the human body; you can find them everywhere except on your actual lips.
Perspiration or sweat
is controlled by your sympathetic nervous system. Sweat glands are long, coiled tubes that are found in your in the skin. There are several sweat glands that are located in various parts of the body.

Armpits, Anus, Genitals

The apocrine gland is a type of sweat gland that produces sweat that has protein and carbohydrates, which is why you get that yellow stain on the armpit of your shirts. It also has a more thick and milky consistency, which can smell because of the bacteria (healthy bacteria) that live on your skin.

Apocrine sweat is produced by adrenaline, which is controlled by your adrenal medulla. So when you start to work out these are usually the areas that start sweating, as your body needs adrenaline to work hard. In the woolly mammoth days, the smell of this sweat also worked as a defense to predators.

Side note: Asians have fewer apocrine sweat glands than other races, which is why scientist believe they tend to be less prone to body odor.

Palms, Feet, Forehead

The eccrine glands are the most common sweat glands that are found on the palms, soles of your feet, and your forehead. Eccrine glands secrete a clear, odorless sweat that helps regulate your body's temperature by allowing heat loss through evaporation. These glands are controlled by the hypothalamus and tend to be primarily activated by emotional stimuli and stressors that increase body temperature.

If you have a lot of nervous energy, feel angry, or are surprised, these are the areas you will start to sweat from first. This sweat will be especially prevalent after a stressful day at the office, getting cut off in traffic, or dealing with a pissed off person.

Face and Scalp

The microscopic sebaceous glands are in your skin, which secretes an oily, non-odorless liquid that waterproofs and lubricate your hair and skin. Today, lower levels of sebaceous activity are found because they don't serve as much of a purpose in modern human life.

Some Sweat, Some Don't

Everyone sweats differently under different circumstances. If you're a healthy individual who hits it hard and still can't break a sweat, then you could be dehydrated. Drink plenty of water, cut down on your margaritas, and get 20 to 30 minutes of exercise—call it "sweat exercise".

Regardless of where you sweat, remember that sweating is extremely important for your body. By staying hydrated and doing exercise, in a weeks time, you will notice your sweat change. In the beginning, sweat can be salty and oily. As you sweat more, it gradually changes to a watery, clean and fresh sweat.

Sexual Attraction

If you have ever been attracted to the smell of a person, it may not just be their expensive perfume or cologne; it could be there sweat. Although sweating is a means of thermoregulation, it is also acts as a pheromonal cue.

Pheromones are odorless chemical compounds emitted through sweat—both men and women. In fact, pheromones are part of nature's mating game, intended to create sexual attraction on a purely physical level. This could explain why cologne manufacturers and advertising firms spend billions of dollars convincing consumers that smelling better make them more popular with the opposite sex.

Instead of spending cash on an expensive bottle, opt for a month's gym membership and get your sweat on.

Active logoStart sweating in a fitness class.

Anna Roberts McMurray specializes in creating and implementing fitness programs designed to achieve the health and fitness goals of her clients safely and efficiently.

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