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The Science of Sweat

Updated on August 3, 2010

With temperatures peaking this month, you are probably thinking about ways to stay cool.  A cold drink or a quick dip in the pool are refreshing activities.  However, your body has a natural way of cooling itself:  sweating.  While sweat is an icky topic, without it, you would overheat.

Within the first few months of life, the average human develops about three million sweat glands.  There are two types of sweat glands.  The first type, known as the eccrine gland, releases the sweat associated with exercise and humidity in order to regulate body temperature.

The second type of sweat gland is the apocrine gland, which is located in your armpits, genitals, palms of your hands, and soles of your feet.  Stressful and nerve-wracking situations trigger this gland to release sweat that empties into hair follicles.

Gender, genes, weight, body shape, level of fitness, heat acclimation and hydration levels all determine an individual’s sweat pattern.  In fact, the more aerobically fit you are, the faster you start to sweat.  That’s because your body becomes efficient in cooling itself.

Obesity causes a person to sweat more because more weight means more metabolic heat to eliminate.  And, because fat is a good insulator, it limits the heat flow to the skin surface.

During these hot summer months, if you exercise outdoors, do so in the hours before 10am or after 4pm.  Stay indoors on days with high humidity.  When the air is already saturated, it makes sweat evaporation harder.  You will seem to sweat more on humid days because the sweat doesn’t lift from your skin.  Wear moisture-wicking clothing and drink plenty of water.


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    • equealla profile image

      equealla 7 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      Good advice you have given, to help us with temperature control. We sure do have a lot of "holes" in our body!