6 Surprising Truths about Sweat

You’re at the gym, grinding away on the elliptical and breaking a wicked sweat. If you’re wondering why you’re so sweaty, it’s time for a primer on this basic bodily function. Here are six need-to-know facts about sweat:

1. The more intense your workout, the more you sweat.
Physical exertion requires our cells to make energy. Tapping into that energy creates heat, which our body needs to release in order to cool down. “Our body wants to keep us at an even temperature,” says Greg Cloutier, project manager for the Human Performance and Exercise Science Laboratory at Northeastern University’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences. “The blood gets pushed through capillaries in the skin, and it gets cooled by the evaporating sweat on our skin, much like a car radiator. The more we work, the more heat we create.”

2. People who are fit sweat less.
As you become increasingly fit, your body becomes more efficient, so you don’t generate as much heat to make energy, Cloutier says. If you’re in shape, you won’t perspire as much because you have less insulation creating heat. In other words: The more you work out, the fewer tissues you’ll need to wipe your brow.

3. That sweat needs to be replenished.
Perspiring means your body is releasing water, which needs to be replenished by drinking more liquids. If you exercise strenuously for 90 minutes or more, you’ll also need more electrolytes, which help regulate the balance of fluids in your body. Try consuming a sports beverage that contains sodium, potassium and chloride -- but go for a low-cal version if you’re working out for less than two hours (to avoid any unnecessary calories!).

4. Everyone has two types of sweat glands.
When your body temperature rises during a workout, your autonomic nervous system stimulates what are known as the eccrine glands to sweat in order to cool down. That perspiration is made up mostly of water and salt, as well as small amounts of other electrolytes.

Apocrine glands, on the other hand, are usually triggered by emotions like nervousness or stress. They’re located where you have hair follicles, such as the scalp, armpits and groin, says Dr. Pamela Jakubowicz, a dermatologist at Montefiore Medical Center and assistant clinical professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. These glands secrete a fatty sweat under stress, and “when sweat from these glands is released, bacteria breaks it down,” Jakubowicz says, which can cause body odor.

5. Sweat too much? It might be a medical problem.
People who sweat too much may have hyperhidrosis, which may result from a health condition, such as an overactive thyroid gland, low blood glucose or menopause. If you feel like your sweat is out of control, talk to your doctor, who can offer a prescription-strength antiperspirant.

6. Mopping up your sweat prevents breakouts.
While there’s no medical reason to wipe up your sweat, doing so certainly helps prevent the machines at your gym from getting doused. “You may also want to do that so you prevent breakouts, which are caused when dead skin gets stuck and attracts bacteria” to your face and other areas of your body, Jakubowicz says. So always bring a few tissues with you during your workout.

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Photo: Corbis Images

The Perfect 15-minute No-gym Workout

What’s the No. 1 reason for not exercising? Not enough time. Life is busy -- especially if you travel frequently. But setting aside a little time to sweat can have a huge payoff: According to a 2011 study in the journal Lancet, people who fit in just 15 minutes of exercise each day were healthier and lived three more years than those who didn’t. That’s why I recommend getting a minimum of that amount of activity daily, no matter how hectic your schedule is.

When you’re on vacation or a business trip, access to a gym can be unreliable. The good news is that you don’t need equipment, much less a gym, to score a workout. Almost anywhere you go, you can squeeze in this fast and effective no-gym workout, which targets your major muscle groups using nothing but your own body weight. All you need is a watch or clock to keep time, plus a few tissues to mop up the sweat!

To warm up, march in place, lifting your knees high for 30 seconds, then jog in place for 30 seconds. Do each exercise for one minute; for a 15-minute workout, complete the circuit below twice.              

Try to transition as quickly as possible from one exercise to the next to keep your heart rate up and your calorie burn high.

The No-gym Workout Circuit

1. Squats: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Push your hips back as you bend your knees and squat down as if you’re sitting back into a chair.

2. Pushups: Place your hands directly under your shoulders. Keep your back flat and your core muscles tight. Bend your elbows and lower down until your chest is a few inches from the floor.

3. Jumping Jacks: Do as many as you can in one minute to get your heart rate up!

4. Lunges: Take a big step forward and lower your thigh parallel to the floor. Keep your knee over your ankle and your back straight. Push up and step back with the same leg into a reverse lunge. Repeat for 30 seconds and then switch legs.

5. Plank: Rest your forearms on the ground with your elbows directly under your shoulders. Come up on to the balls of your feet, keeping your back flat and your core muscles tight. Hold for one minute.

6. Squat Jumps: Sink down into a squat and push off into a jump. Land softly and push your hips back as you return to the squat, keeping your core muscles engaged.

7. Bicycle Crunch: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hands near your ears. Lift your shoulders and twist your right elbow to meet your left knee; straighten your right leg. Switch sides. Continue for one minute.

When you’re through, go on a short walk or step in place to cool down -- and wipe away the sweat with a few tissues.

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How to Squeeze in Exercise -- Anywhere!

Once again, it’s the most wonderful -- and busy -- time of the year. With all of the cooking, hosting and shopping involved, it’s no wonder that nearly 70 percent of Americans complain of being short on time during the holidays, according to a survey from the American Psychological Association.

Unfortunately, workouts are often the first thing to get the pink slip during this hectic season. But making time to exercise is one of the most effective ways to keep stress in check. (Plus, you’ll burn off some of those cookies and eggnog.)

Still think you can’t squeeze it in? With my tips and on-the-go moves, fitting exercise is a breeze -- so you still have plenty of time to eat, drink and be merry. Consider it my gift to you!

1. Be realistic. Now’s probably not the ideal time to commit to working out an hour a day or shedding 15 pounds. Instead, worry less about fitness gains or weight loss and focus on moving more and keeping the scale steady.

2. Encourage family fitness. Spend quality time while you sneak in exercise! Consider planning a cross-country ski outing or pre-dinner hike. Bonus: A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry reveals that exercising before a fatty meal helps to protect against some of the heart-harmful effects.

3. Give yourself some motivation. Whether it’s a slinky New Year’s Eve dress or post-holiday tropical vacation, having a goal down the road can serve as inspiration. Nothing keeps that fudge at bay like picturing yourself in a swimsuit.

Another way to stay active is to keep a list of exercises that don’t require much time or space. You can sneak in a 10- or 15-minute workout during commercials or a break from chores. Consider my list of effective and efficient moves:

  1. Push-ups. Keeping your torso in a straight line, begin on your knees or -- if you can -- toes. Place hands slightly wider than shoulder-width on the ground. Lower your chest till it nearly touches the floor, keeping your abs and butt squeezed to engage your core. Press back to start and repeat; do as many as you can.
  2. Bicycle crunches. Lie on your back, pull your bellybutton to your spine and relax your shoulders. Place your hands behind your lifted head (for support only -- don’t pull yourself up) and lift your knees to a 45-degree angle. Bring your right elbow towards your left knee, and then bring your left elbow towards your right knee in a twisting motion. Repeat until muscle fatigue sets in. To increase the intensity, extend the opposite leg as far as possible.
  3. Squats. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Lift arms slightly forward for balance and bend at the knees and hips to a sitting position, until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Rise to starting point and repeat until you’re tired.
  4. Wall sit. Rest your back against a wall and slide down, moving your feet forward. Keep your knees behind your toes, with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle.

Hold this position as long as possible.

  1. Leg Extension. While sitting up straight in your chair, extend your right leg until it is level with your hip. Hold as long as you’re able and then lower. Alternate sides. Repeat until you’re tired.
  2. Toe and calf raises. First, lift and lower your toes while keeping your heels firmly on the ground. (You can do this standing or seated.) Then, from a standing position, raise and lower your heels. For extra intensity, do these raises while balancing on the edge of a step for added intensity. (Hold onto a wall or piece of furniture to keep your balance.) Do as many reps as you can.
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Allergy-Proof Your Workout

There are already countless excuses for skipping your workout -- don’t let your allergies be one of them. If you’re one of the 40 million Americans who suffer from sniffles, sneezes, wheezes and watery eyes every spring or fall, you know that these symptoms can make exercising outside difficult. But with a few smart moves, you can breathe easy while staying fit.

1. Time it right.
Plants release their pollen early in the morning, right after dawn, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American. As the wind shifts, the count rises and reaches its peak around mid-day in cities and urban areas. To avoid an allergy attack, schedule workouts in the very early morning or later in the evening. Or head outdoors right after it rains, which temporarily washes away the pollen.

2. Check the pollen count.
If the pollen counts are particularly high, you may want to take your workout inside. Check the levels in your area on the National Allergy Bureau’s website. Hit the gym, set up your own mini boot camp or do a workout DVD.

3. Treat it early.
The best time to take your allergy medication isn't when you start to sneeze -- it's beforehand. Those meds are most effective when they're already in your system, say the experts. 

4. Shield your eyes.
To keep irritants from getting in your eyes during a workout, slip on a pair of wraparound shades before your walk, run or bike ride. Wearing a hat can also keep pollen from clinging onto your hair all day long, which can worsen your symptoms.

5. Shower off.
As soon as you get done with your workout, hop in the shower to rinse away that pollen and toss your clothes straight in the wash. To avoid tracking those allergens throughout your home, keep a clothing and sneaker bin in your home's mudroom or entryway.

6. Keep moving.
Don't be tempted to skip your sweat session on account of those sniffles: According to a study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Allergy and Immunology, exercising for half an hour can reduce your allergy symptoms by as much as 70 percent. The researchers explain that moderate physical activity may counteract nasal inflammation. That's motivation enough to lace up those sneakers!

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A Beginner's Guide to Running

Now that it’s warmer out, you might be thinking about lacing up your sneakers. Running is a fantastic way to enjoy the season while conditioning your body. In fact, it’s one of the top calorie-burners around: You can torch 700 to 800 calories an hour, according to a study done in part by the Medical College of Wisconsin.

It’s also a terrific cardio workout for women, protecting against heart disease. And the benefits don’t stop there: Research shows that it eases stress, strengthens joint ligaments and even lowers cancer risk.

Don’t know where to begin? Start with the following advice. These tips will help you choose the best gear, prevent injuries and keep you running throughout the season -- and beyond. Ready, set, go!

Avoid Injury
Studies show that 80 percent of runners suffer a moderate or severe injury, such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis or runner’s knee. A few precautions can help you from being sidelined:

  • Have a plan. Work with a trainer to outline an appropriate-for-you routine or follow a professionally designed beginner’s workout, like Couch to 5K.
  • Warm up and cool down. Start with five minutes of brisk walking or slow jogging. Then, after your workout, stretch and use a foam roller to release tight muscles.
  • Mix things up. Cross-training can build endurance while giving your body a break from running. And don’t forget strength training, which shores up bones, joints, tendons, ligaments and core strength.
  • Don’t do too much, too soon. Try not to increase any aspect, such as speed or distance, by more than 10 percent per week. And designate at least one day each week. Bottom line: Listen to your body. You may step outside of your comfort zone while running, but don’t ignore any aches or pains.

Watch Your Form
You’ll run more efficiently and easily when you maintain proper form. Remember to:

  • Look ahead. As you fatigue, remember to stand tall instead of slouching. And gaze forward instead of down so that your head and neck are aligned. Also remember to keep your shoulders low and loose; resist the temptation to have them creep toward your ears.
  • Watch your arms and hands. Swing your arms forward instead of across the body. Elbows should be at a 90-degree angle and your hands should be loose, with your fists unclenched.

Gear Up
One of the best things about running is that you don’t need a lot to do it. What to look for:

  • The right shoe. A professional can help you find the best shoe for your foot shape and gait.
  • Synthetic socks. Running in a cotton pair is a surefire way to develop blisters. Synthetic fibers may cost more, but they’ll last longer and help keep your feet healthy.
  • A tissue or two. Running is an excellent way to clear your sinuses, and you may get sniffly during your run. Or as you heat up, you may want to blot your face with a tissue to stay beautiful.

Stay Motivated
Running is as emotional and mental as it is physical. Be sure that you: 

  • Stay positive. Stop thinking of it as “hard.” Instead, focus on the benefits, like how great you feel afterward. They don’t call it a “runner’s high” for nothing.
  • Put on some tunes: Energizing beats help keep you moving!
  • Stop thinking, start doing. It can be hard to wake up early to run at times … or do it after work. But don’t let your mind fashion excuses. Just lace up and go!

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