Does Sweating Burn Calories?

Written by Noleen Arendse

Does sweating burn calories? Technically yes, however, it’s not significant enough to make a difference in the number of calories burned during an activity or even calories burned doing nothing. However, it can be an indicator of work out intensity. 

In this article, we discuss sweating, it’s benefits and risks plus 3 easy ways to measure the intensity of your workout. 

Does sweating burn calories

Table Contents

Does sweating burn calories?

Does sweating burn calories? Yes, it does to some degree — but not significantly more calories than the activity itself.  

When you take part in activities that raise your heart rate and require energy, such as running, cycling, or weightlifting, your body burns calories to fuel the movements and your body temperature is raised. This triggers your body to produce sweat in an attempt to regulate your body’s temperature. 

Although the sweating itself doesn’t burn more calories, it can be used as a sign that the intensity of your workout is sufficient to improve your fitness, build muscle, and lose fat. It can also be a sign that you have a fever or an infection. Sweating is a result of running a temperature which can burn more calories. For more on this, read do you burn more calories when sick? 

It’s best to check in with your health practitioner if you are experiencing increased sweating that’s not due to exercise or illness. 

Sweating does not burn significantly more calories. However, it is a good indicator of the intensity of your workout.

What causes sweating?

Sweating — also known as perspiration — is a natural process that occurs when the body regulates its temperature. The primary cause of sweating is the activation of sweat glands by the autonomic nervous system.

When the body’s internal temperature rises due to external factors, such as exercise, high temperatures, or emotional stress, the brain signals the sweat glands to produce sweat.

Sweat consists mainly of water and small amounts of salt and other minerals. Apart from regulating temperature, it also plays a role in maintaining electrolyte balance and detoxification by eliminating small amounts of toxins and waste products toxins through the skin.

Why do some people sweat more than others?

Some people sweat more than others due to several factors such as genetics, gender, age, level of fitness and health. 

Generally, fitter individuals start to sweat more easily during exercise and hot environments due to their body being trained to regulate it’s temperature. 

Some individuals naturally have more sweat glands or larger sweat glands than others, which can result in increased sweating. Men, for example, have more active sweat glands than women’s, so they will sweat more. 

Additionally, factors such as obesity, certain medical conditions (like hyperhidrosis), and medications can also contribute to excessive sweating.

Sweating is your body's mechanism to regulate temperature and also plays a role in keeping electrolytes balanced. It's best to seek medical assistance if you are concerned about your sweating.

How many calories does sweating burn?

Sweating does not burn significantly more calories than the exercise itself. How much you sweat depends on your individual sweat rate, the external temperature, humidity, the intensity of your workout, your hormones and your emotions. 

A more accurate way to measure the number of calories burned during exercise is to use a fitness device, heart rate monitor or activity tracker that tracks your heart rate, steps, and other activity data.

These devices will give a more accurate estimate of the number of calories you are burning based on your individual fitness level and the intensity of your workout.

You can also use the following calculators:

Does sweating burn fat?

Sweating itself does not burn fat nor is it an indicator that you are burning fat. 

Engaging in physical activities that elevate your heart rate and require energy can lead to fat burning. Also, if you are eating fewer calories than you’re burning, your body will also burn fat for fuel.

Regular exercise, combined with a healthy diet, is the key to burning fat and achieving your weight loss goals.

Does sweating alone cause you to burn calories?

No, sweating alone will not cause you to burn more calories. While sweating may be an indicator of exertion and increased metabolic rate, it does not directly cause you to burn more calories. The calories burned during exercise come from the energy required to perform the physical activity itself. 

Does sweating help you lose weight?

Sweating does not lead to fat loss, however, after a good sweat, you might notice that you are lighter on the scale. 

This is due to a temporary loss of water due to sweating. As soon as you start to rehydrate, you’ll gain weight (as in weight on the scale, not fat).

Are you still burning calories if you don't sweat?

Yes, sweating is not the sole indicator that you are burning calories. Your body is burning calories every minute of the day, for example take a look at your calories burned sleeping, to see how much you burn even doing nothing.

During exercise, if your heart rate is up you’ll be burning calories even if you don’t sweat. 

Sweating is not a sign of burning fat. You don't burn significantly more calories due to sweating. The best way to work out how many calories you've burned is to use a fitness device or a calories-burned calculator.

What are the benefits of sweating?

While sweating does not burn fat or significantly more calories, there are several health benefits to sweating.

Regulates body temperature

One of the primary functions of sweating is to regulate body temperature. When the body gets too hot, the sweat glands produce sweat, which evaporates from the skin surface and cools the body down.

This mechanism prevents overheating and helps maintain a stable core temperature, reducing the risk of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

Helps detox the body

Sweating helps to eliminate certain toxins and impurities through the pores of the skin.

Sweat contains small amounts of substances like urea, ammonia, and heavy metals, which can be excreted through the skin. This process helps relieve the burden on the kidneys and liver, promoting overall detoxification.

Keeps your skin healthy

Sweating can benefit the health and appearance of the skin. As sweat is released, it helps to unclog pores and removes dirt, oil, and bacteria from the skin’s surface. This can reduce the incidence of acne and other skin conditions. 

Sweating also increases blood flow to the skin, which delivers essential nutrients and oxygen, which promotes a healthy complexion.

It might help boost your immune system

Sweating may strengthen the immune system. Some research suggests that sweat contains a natural antibiotic peptide called dermcidin, which exhibits antimicrobial properties.

It’s thought that this natural antibiotic can help protect the body against certain pathogens such as tuberculosis and other dangerous bugs. Sweating may also stimulate the production of white blood cells, enhancing immune function.

It helps manage stress levels

Sweating through physical activity or in saunas can help manage stress and improve mental well-being. Exercise-induced sweating triggers the release of “feel-good” hormones known as endorphins which can help reduce stress, anxiety, and improve your mood.

The heat and relaxation experienced during sauna sessions have been linked to reduced stress levels and improved relaxation.

Improves your cardiovascular health

Regular sweating, through exercise, can have positive effects on your cardiovascular health. Sweating during physical activity helps increase heart rate, improves circulation, and strengthens the cardiovascular system. It also lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of heart disease, and improves overall cardiovascular fitness.

May help with weight loss

Physical activity that induces sweating burns calories which can contribute to weight loss or maintenance of your goal weight.

Sweating also assists in eliminating excess water weight through perspiration. This weight loss is temporary and should not be relied upon solely for long-term weight management.

Remember that individual responses to sweating can vary. Make sure you remain hydrated and replace fluids lost through sweat to avoid dehydration. 

It’s best to consult your health practitioner if you sweat excessively, don’t sweat or have any concerns. 

 

There are many health benefits to sweating - including detoxification, skin health, immune system support, stress relief, cardiovascular health and weight management.

Are there any risks to sweating?

While sweating has several health benefits, there are also a few risks associated with excessive or prolonged sweating. Here are some of the potential risks to be aware of:

Dehydration

If you don’t replenish the fluids that are lost through sweating, there is a risk of dehydration. When you sweat excessively, your body loses water and electrolytes. This can disrupt the body’s fluid balance and result in dehydration. Dehydration can cause symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, muscle cramps, and in severe cases, heatstroke.

Imbalance of electrolytes

Sodium, potassium, and magnesium are essential electrolytes that play a crucial role in proper nerve and muscle function. Excessive sweating not only leads to fluid loss but can also cause an imbalance in these electrolytes. This can lead to symptoms such as muscle weakness, irregular heart rhythms, and other issues.

Heat-related illnesses

Exercising in high temperatures or engaging in intense physical activity for an extended period without rehydrating, can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heatstroke. These conditions occur when the body’s cooling mechanism, such as sweating, is overwhelmed.

Skin irritation and infections

In some situations, prolonged sweating can lead to skin irritation and the development of skin conditions.

Sweat can mix with dirt, bacteria and other substances on the skin. This can result in skin rashes, inflammation of hair follicles, or even fungal or bacterial infections, particularly in moist areas of the body.

For most individuals engaging in moderate physical activity, sweating within a healthy range is unlikely to pose significant risks.

The risks associated with sweating are generally more relevant in situations of excessive or prolonged sweating, such as intense physical activity, high heat exposure, or certain medical conditions.

It’s essential to stay hydrated, maintain electrolyte balance, and listen to your body’s signals to prevent any potential complications.

Excessive sweating or high temperatures without adequate rehydration, can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, heat-related illnesses and potentially skin irritation and infection.

Is sweating while working out good or bad?

Sweating while working out is generally a positive sign. It indicates that your body is regulating its temperature efficiently. Sweating helps cool the body and prevents overheating during exercise.

However, excessive sweating or unusual sweating can be a sign of dehydration or an underlying medical condition. It’s essential to stay properly hydrated and seek medical advice if you experience excessive sweating that is causing discomfort or impacting your daily life.

Do you need to sweat to have a good workout?

No, sweating is not crucial to having a good workout. While it can be an indication of exertion, intensity and increased calorie burning, its absence does not mean you’re not getting a good workout.

The intensity and effectiveness of a workout are determined by several factors, such as heart rate, duration, and the type of exercise performed.

Does sweating during exercise burn fat?

Sweating during exercise does not directly burn fat. However, it can indicate that you are working out hard enough to burn extra calories and help with fat loss. 

The most sustainable way to lose weight is to make it a lifestyle. Work out how many calories a day you should eat to lose weight and start an exercise routine that you enjoy. Aim to be consistent and lose weight gradually for best results.

Sweating during a workout is generally a positive sign and indicates that your body is regulating its temperature. You don't need to sweat to have a good workout.

Indicators of a good workout

Indicators of a good workout can vary depending on your fitness goals, level of fitness, and the type of exercise being performed. Here are a few general indicators that show that you’ve had a good workout or having been workout out with sufficient intensity.

Increased heart rate

A good workout usually elevates your heart rate to a level that challenges your cardiovascular system. A higher heart rate shows that your heart is pumping blood more efficiently and is delivering oxygen and nutrients to your body.

Sustained energy and endurance

If you find that your energy increases and you’re able to sustain a certain level of intensity for longer, it shows that your body is adapting to your workouts as its been challenged.

Sweating

Sweating during a workout is a good sign as it indicates that your body is regulating its temperature effectively. Sweating helps cool down the body and prevents overheating during intense exercise.

Improved strength and performance

If you notice that your strength has increased or you’re able to perform more reps than before, it indicates that you are progressing. 

Similarly, if you can run faster, cycle longer distances, or perform exercises with improved form and technique, it suggests an improvement in your fitness level.

Increased range of motion and flexibility

Regular exercise can improve your flexibility and range of motion. If you find that you can move more freely or perform exercises with a wider range of motion, it shows that your muscles and joints are becoming more flexible and mobile.

Positive changes in body composition

Over time, regular exercise can lead to positive changes in body composition. If you notice that your clothes are looser or you have more muscle definition, it can show that you’re progressing towards your weight loss goals.

Post-workout satisfaction and mental well-being

A good workout will leave you with a sense of accomplishment, energized, and with an overall sense of well-being. Exercise releases endorphins, which can boost mood, reduce stress, and improve mental clarity. If you experience these positive mental effects, it can indicate that you’ve had a good workout. 

Signs of a good workout include increased heart rate, improved endurance and strength, increased range of motion, positive changes in your body composition and post-workout satisfaction.

How to measure the intensity of a workout?

While sweating doesn’t burn calories, it can be used as an indicator of the intensity of your workout. 

Here are three ways to measure the intensity of your workout. 

Monitor your heart rate

Use a fitness device or heart rate monitor to monitor your heart rate as an indicator of the intensity of your workout.

Generally, your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. 

Your target heart rate zone during moderate intensity activities is about 50 70% of your maximum heart rate. For example, someone in their 40s will have a target heart rate zone of 90 – 153 beats per minute (bpm). 

Vigorous activity is more or less 70 – 85% of your maximum heart rate.

Aim for workouts that are in the moderate to vigorous activity level to improve your cardiovascular fitness and burn calories.

 

Age

Target heart rate

50 – 85% 

Maximum 

heart rate

20

100 – 170 bpm

200 bpm

30

95 – 162 bpm

190 bpm

35

93 – 157 bpm

185 bpm

40

90 – 153 bpm

180 bpm

45

88 – 149 bpm

175 bpm

50

85 – 145 bpm

170 bpm

55

83 – 140 bpm

165 bpm

60

80 – 136 bpm

160 bpm

65

78 – 132 bpm

155 bpm

70

75 – 128 bpm

150 bpm

Use the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale

The Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale is a subjective measure of how hard you feel you are working during exercise.

It’s usually assessed on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being no exertion or resting to 10 being maximum exertion. 

By paying attention to your breathing, muscle fatigue, and overall discomfort, you can rate your perceived exertion level to determine workout intensity. Aim for an intensity of light to moderate activity. For high intensity workouts, aim for hard activity interspersed with rest breaks. 

Rating of perceived exertion

The talk test

The talk test is a simple method to assess workout intensity based on your ability to speak during exercise. If you can carry on a conversation comfortably while exercising, it indicates a moderate intensity level. If you can only speak in short phrases or find it challenging to talk, it suggests a higher intensity level.

You can rate the intensity of your workout by monitoring your heart rate, measuring your RPE and how easy or difficult it is to talk during exercise.

FAQs

Sweating does not burn significantly more calories. Sweating during exercise is usually as a result of the energy spent in the activity than in sweating.

No, sweating doesn’t mean your burning fat. However, it is a good indicator of workout intensity which can lead to fat loss.

Sweating might make you lose weight, however, this will be water loss and not fat loss. Once you replenish fluids, you’ll gain the weight (not fat) back. 

Yes, sweating eliminates small amounts of waste products and toxins through the skin. However, the primary organs responsible for removing toxins are the kidneys and liver.

No, sweating after exercise does not burn extra calories. It’s your body’s mechanism to regulate temperature post-exercise. 

Sweating can help keep the skin clear to some degree by flushing out dirt and unclogging pores. However, after exercise, it’s important to remember to cleanse the skin properly to remove any buildup and prevent issues. 

Overall Summary

  • Does sweating burn calories? No – but it is a good indicator of workout intensity that burns calories
  • Sweating is how your body regulates temperature
  • Sweating has many health benefits
  • It’s always best to rehydrate after a good workout or sweat to prevent dehydration

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