By Alexa Romagnolo
Walking into any gym, this scene is pretty standard: Men casually pumping dumbbells as they check themselves out in the mirror, and women watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians as they mindlessly pedal on the elliptical machines.
These types of exercises fail to induce an important result of working out–sweat. I don’t mean a light glistening on your forehead or a cute sparkle on your chest; I’m talking about a deep, drenching, cleansing sweat.
Though it may seem satisfactory to only work on biceps or burn some calories at the gym, studies and expert opinions suggest that intensely sweating has unique and powerful benefits on the body.
The body sweats to detoxify itself. As we go throughout our everyday lives, chemicals and metals bombard our bodies, posing a threat to our health. The body gets rid of these materials through urine and blood, but its primary release is through sweat.
Toxic elements like arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury are excreted at higher levels in sweat than in urine, reported a study in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health published in 2012.
Similarly, a study published in the Scientific World Journal concluded that DEHP and MEHP, harmful chemicals found in school supplies, cosmetics, nail polish and shampoo, are primarily released through sweat.
Therefore, sweat gets rid of toxins in the body more efficiently than any other method of excretion, like urine or blood, can. Heavily sweating regularly is vital to our bodies’ ability to detoxify itself of harmful materials.
Many avoid intensely sweating because they fear it will cause them to break out. However, the opposite is true. Sweating can actually have the effect of clearing the skin if managed properly.
The key element to focus on when it comes to the effect of sweating on the skin is sebum, an oil found in pores.
According to a study in Skin Research and Technology, sebum concentration on the face decreases during excessive sweating and after sweating. From this, we can conclude that sebum in the pores is excreted during periods of heavy sweating, clearing them of this oily substance.
As you sweat, your pores open and blood flow increases, allowing this to take place. Many aestheticians even use this method at the start of facials.
“The first thing that’s done to you during a facial is hot steam. So yes, it [sweating] will improve your glow to your skin temporarily, just as a facial does,” says aesthetician Jen Kauffman.
The threat of a breakout only arises when the sweat is allowed to sit on the skin for a long period of time. Sweat pulls out all the impurities in the skin, but then all of those impurities sit with the sweat on your face until you clean them.
Optimizing sweat as an asset to your skin instead of an enemy then becomes simple: sweat heavily and sweat often, but make sure to take a shower and change your clothes quickly after.
Different from what most might think, the benefit of working out on your heart goes beyond simply raising your heart rate. The actual act of sweating proves to increase cardiovascular health.
“Low-temperature sauna bathing (LTSB) at 60 degrees C for 15 minutes improves cardiac function,” concluded a study in the International Journal of Biometeorology.
Repeated sauna therapy also has the effect of lowering bad cholesterol and raising good cholesterol through the lipids, or fats, released in sweat, according to a study in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health. These balanced levels of good and bad cholesterol help to keep your arteries clear and your heart healthy.
Sweating is not just a cooling mechanism our bodies use when they get overheated, but is a process that can greatly improve our health and prevent diseases.
When I became aware of all that intensely sweating can do for the body, I wanted to incorporate a deep sweat into my weekly workouts, but I didn’t know how.
Those accustomed to their 10-minute lifting or elliptical session may find themselves in a similar place, wanting to increase their sweating but at a loss for how to do so.
Here are some ideas of activities that will leave you dripping with satisfaction and success.
- Infrared Saunas
Infrared saunas are the newest technology in sweat therapy. Taking a healthier approach to saunas, they heat the body from within rather than from the air, using light waves to raise the body’s core temperature directly without heating the air around it.
People can buy their own freestanding saunas, or they can go to infrared sauna studios, where they can simply pay a fee and sweat to their heart’s content (really, your heart will thank you for it).
- Hot/Bikram Yoga
Speaking from personal experience, hot yoga makes you sweat in ways and from places you never knew you could. With most classes at 90 degrees for 90 minutes, you will look like you just jumped in a pool by the end of the session.
At the crossroads of difficulty and serenity, hot yoga is a fun way to release all of the mental, physical and emotional toxins pent up in the body. Simply locate a hot yoga studio near you, and you should be sweating in no time.
- High Intensity Interval Training
This method of exercising is highly effective and perfect for those who don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to working out. The idea behind this practice is training in short, full-out bursts, with periods of complete rest in between.
These sprints can take many forms–biking, running, swimming, squatting and more. This way, your heart rate will be raised, your breath gone and your clothes drenched in only 10 to 15 minutes.
As you think about how to get physical this week, consider trying out one of these drenching workouts–you might end up producing the water that quenches your body’s thirst for health.
For more ideas on specific interval training workouts, visit Shape.com.