Sweating is the body’s natural way of regulating body temperature. It does this by releasing water and salt, which evaporates to help cool you.
Sweating itself doesn’t burn a measurable amount of calories, but sweating out enough liquid will cause you to lose water weight. It’s only a temporary loss, though. Once you rehydrate by drinking water or eating, you’ll immediately regain any lost weight.
Some claim sweat-filled activities like Bikram yoga allow you to burn up to 1,000 calories an hour — but the claim is likely false. One study found that in a 90-minute Bikram yoga class, women burned an average of only 330 calories, and men burned 460 calories. That’s the equivalent of walking briskly at 3.5 miles per hour for the same amount of time.
You can also burn calories during activities where you don’t sweat much, or at all. For example, you still burn calories swimming, lifting light weights, or exercising when it’s cold outside in the winter.
Still, sweat may be a way to measure your intensity level, or how hard you’re working, during certain types of exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends healthy adults fit in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise — or enough to break a sweat while still carrying on a conversation — five days a week.
How much you sweat is based on a variety of factors, including:
- environmental factors
- fitness level
Of these factors, your weight and fitness level will most influence how much you sweat during exercise. Your body needs to use more energy to function at a higher weight. This results in more sweat, because there’s more body mass to cool down.
The better shape you’re in, the quicker you’ll sweat. That’s because the body becomes more efficient at regulating temperature. Sweating earlier means your body can cool down faster. This lets you work out for a longer time at a more rigorous pace.
The main benefit of sweat is cooling your body down. Some other benefits of sweating may include:
- Healthier skin. Intense exercise gets the blood circulating throughout your body. This allows oxygen and nutrients to circulate and nourish skin cells.
- Challenging yourself. If you’re breaking a sweat while exercising, you’re probably doing workouts that are appropriately challenging for your fitness level. But if you’re lightheaded, extremely tired, or in pain, you’re pushing yourself too hard.
If you’re sweating, you’re more likely to get dehydrated. Hot or humid weather increases the amount you sweat. For every pound of sweat you lose, be sure to drink a pint of water. Don’t wait until you get thirsty to start hydrating. Instead, take a water bottle with you and drink regularly throughout your workout.
Severe dehydration can be dangerous. Get medical help for these symptoms right away:
- extreme exhaustion or confusion
- dizziness when you stand that doesn’t go away after a few seconds
- not urinating for eight hours
- weak pulse
- rapid pulse
- loss of consciousness
If you regularly sweat excessively, you may have a condition called hyperhidrosis. See your doctor if sweating disrupts your daily routine. Also, check in with your doctor if you get night sweats for no known reason, or you’re suddenly sweating excessively.
Get medical help right away if sweating occurs with:
- fever of 104°F (40°C) or higher
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- rapid heart rate
In order to lose weight, you need to burn off more calories than you take in. Around 3,500 calories equal 1 pound of fat. So you need to burn off 3,500 more calories than you consume to lose 1 pound.
The best way to achieve a healthy weight is to adopt an active lifestyle. Eating a healthy diet full of whole foods and exercising regularly (up to five days a week for around 30 minutes) are the best ways to safely achieve your weight loss goals.
Sweating out water weight may help you temporarily drop a few pounds quickly. Wrestlers and horse jockeys who need to be at a certain weight to compete use this technique.
However, the calories lost aren’t significant, and this isn’t a healthy way to lose weight overall. One study found that athletic performance in women was negatively impacted by sauna-induced rapid weight loss, but more research is needed.
If you’re trying to lose weight, going gradually is the healthiest way. Adopt a healthy diet of whole foods and exercise regularly. Your doctor can also help create a plan that works best for your lifestyle.