Olympic fever is in the air! Or is that sweat?
Sweat is natural and it’s part of who we are – as men and women.
Interestingly, prepubescent girls and boys sweat about the same volume. But once hormones kick in, sweating starts to vary between the sexes with men tending to begin sweating sooner and in higher volume (with activity or heat) than women.1 Why? Scientists point to testosterone, which enhances men’s sweat response.2 Basically, women need to get hotter before they start to sweat. Estrogen plays a role here, too, promoting lower body temperatures in women.3
Another reason why guys tend to sweat more is because they’re often bigger; the bigger the body, the more heat it generates, the more it needs to cool down.4
But how does fitness factor in? A Japaness study5 found that if you take women and men who are the same size, and who have the same fitness level (i.e. top athletes), and put them in the same temperature and exercise conditions – the men will still sweat more than the women.
The scientists involved (at Osaka International University and Kobe University) have a couple evolutionary theories that could explain this:
- Perhaps our ancient male ancestors evolved to sweat more so they could be better hunters with more stamina in the sun?
- Or, did our female ancestors evolve to preserve precious body fluids necessary for successful survival and reproduction?
Although the jury is still out on why, it’s clear that gender differences in sweating are natural and ingrained.
If, however, you sweat uncontrollably and so excessively that swimming is your only athletic choice, you drench your clothes, ruin your iPhone, turn leather shoes into sponges, or have to layer up to hide sweat marks, you might have hyperhidrosis.
People with hyperhidrosis sweat 4 to 5 times more than what is considered necessary or normal to deal with heat or as a reaction to stress. Hyperhidrosis can be so embarrassing that it produces anxiety, hiding behaviors, and affects educational aspirations and career choices.
Sound familiar? Check out our favorite products to keep you drier, more confident, and more comfortable. From moisture wicking shirts, shoe liners, and sheets to antiperspirants designed especially for hyperhidrosis (like Certain Dri), you’ll find something useful and save some bucks, too.
For more help, talk to a doctor! There are effective medical treatments out there.
And now, let the games begin! Swimming and water polo competitions start August 6th (ahh, sweat-free sports!)
1. Araki T, Toda Y, Matsushita K, Tsujino A (1979). Age differences in sweating during muscular exercise. J Physical Fitness Jpn 28, 239–248.
2. Kawahata A (1960). Sex differences in sweating. Essential Problems in Climatic Physiology, ed. Ito S, Ogata H & Yoshimura H, pp. 169–184.
3. Charkoudian N, Stachenfeld N. Sex hormone effects on autonomic mechanisms of thermoregulation in humans. Auton Neurosci. 2016 Apr;196:75-80. doi:10.1016/j.autneu.2015.11.004. Epub 2015 Nov 30. Review. PubMed PMID: 26674572.
4. Havenith G, Luttikholt VG, Vrijkotte TG. The relative influence of body characteristics on humid heat stress response. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1995;70(3):270-9. PubMed PMID: 7607204.
5. Ichinose-Kuwahara, T., Inoue, Y., Iseki, Y., Hara, S., Ogura, Y. and Kondo, N. (2010). Sex differences in the effects of physical training on sweat gland responses during a graded exercise. Experimental Physiology, 95: 1026–1032. doi:10.1113/expphysiol.2010.053710