Sweat 101: The Science Behind Your Perspiration

Do you like to sweat?

Unless you’re a hard core fitness enthusiast, chances are you see sweat as nothing but a nuisance. Aside from showing up in all the awkward places like armpits, groins and the chest area, sweat is also a tell tale sign of fear or nervousness – which can be pretty annoying when you are trying your best to hide your true emotions. Just what is sweat? Why do we need it in the first place?

There are 2.6 million sweat glands distributed all around the body except for the lips, nipples and external genital organs. Sweat Glands can be found in the skin layer called dermis. Their primary function is to rid the body of excess heat. See, the body needs to be in a comfortable 36.5 to 37.5 degrees Celsius to be able to function properly.  Extreme changes in body temperature can cause organs to shut down and lead to serious health conditions such as heat stroke or frostbite.

When the brain senses that the body is hotter than normal, it opens the pores and releases sweat. When sweat  gets in contact with air, it evaporates – which cools the body off.

Sweat Glands

Here are a few frequently asked questions regarding sweat we thought you might like answered:

What is sweat made out of?

Mostly made out of water, perspiration also has trace amounts of ammonia, urea, sugar and salt (sodium, chloride and potassium).

Why is sweat salty?

When water becomes vapor, it leaves behind its ‘salty’ component. Sodium, Chloride and Potassium are important in keeping your body properly hydrated. So always be mindful of drinking water or low carb sports drinks after any sweat-producing activity to replace the minerals you lost.

Does sweat smell?

Sweat is actually odorless. However, sweat accumulates on hot, often moist areas like the groin or underarms where it reacts with bacteria in the area which produce the unpleasant odor. Also, sweat glands found in these areas are different from those from rest of the body. Called Aprocine glands, they produce sweat with proteins or fatty acids which gives sweat from these areas a more yellowish color. This is also the reason why sometimes, you see yellowish stains on your shirt’s underarm area.

In comparison, Eccrine glands (found on the rest of the body) produce sweat mostly made from water and minerals.

Sweat and Exercise 1

Did you know that sweat glands are connected to your nervous system too? This is the main reason why they react during intense emotional events like a first date or a job interview. In fact, sweat is one of the variables considered during a lie detector test!

So there you have it folks! We hope these fun facts encouraged you to get out and sweat more!

Image: How It Works

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