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Do You Have to Sweat to Get a Good Workout?

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A couple of weeks ago, I chatted with a woman in my Body Pump class. We had never talked before, but we attend a lot of the same group exercise classes, and occasionally I see her running on the treadmills. I’m not usually one to strike up a conversation with a stranger at the gym, but, if someone talks to me, I’m happy to chat.

Before class, the woman turned to me and asked if I had done the newest Body Pump release. I replied that I tried it the week before and it was really tough. Her next question—”Did it make you sweat?”—seemed a little weird to me, but I replied that it did. The woman smiled and then said, “Good. I only like workouts that make me sweat.” I agreed with her, but our conversation got me thinking about whether a workout requires sweat.

Of course, sweat is important to exercise. It’s our body’s way of cooling off so that it doesn't overheat. But does it guarantee that I’m getting a good workout? I really enjoy quickie interval workouts on the treadmill where I work hard for 30 minutes and finish dripping in sweat. But is this type of workout better than a 75-minute Vinyasa yoga class? I don’t sweat very much doing this type of exercise, but does that mean I have nothing to show for it?

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A lot of factors come into play with regard to how much I sweat. Temperature is a big factor. I can sit outside in the sun all day and sweat profusely, but it doesn’t mean that I’m burning calories. It just means that I’m hot. On the flip side, I’ve run in 20-degree weather in January in Boston, burned a ton of calories, and barely perspired—but it doesn’t mean I didn’t work hard.

Our individual makeup also affects how much we perspire. I know a lot of people who don’t sweat very much while working out. My old roommate, for instance, would be cool as a cucumber after an hour-long aerobics class. I, however, would be drenched from head to toe. I used to be embarrassed by how much I sweat, but now I view my perspiration as a badge of honor and wear it proudly. To me, it says, “Look how hard I worked.” But, of course, I can get a great workout from an activity where I barely work up a sweat. Plus, less sweaty workouts like yoga provide different types of benefits: stretching, balance, and mental relaxation.

As you can see, for me, maintaining my Feel Great Weight is not all about doing exercise that makes me huff and puff and drip buckets of sweat. There’s a lot more to it. A variety of workouts keeps me in shape and provides my body with all sorts of health benefits—sweat not required!

Tina Haupert is a healthy lifestyle blogger who writes a weekly feature for Health.com as part of the Feel Great Weight plan.

Tina Haupert blogs about health, food, and fitness at carrotsncake.com. She is the author of Carrots 'N' Cake: Healthy Living One Carrot and Cupcake at a Time.