Heated Workouts – Are They Better For You?

sauna-suitYou may have heard that hot workouts like Hot Yoga or wearing a Sweat Suit or exercising in warmer temperatures or sitting in a sauna and steam room will do all kinds of things, like make you lose more weight faster, detoxify the body etc.

While it is true that a very small amount of toxins leave our body through sweat, it is the kidneys which are the main detoxifier of the body, along with the liver and gastrointestinal tract and immune system.  The kidneys rid our body of toxins by helping you pee and poop them out.

Sweat is the body’s way of cooling itself so you don’t overheat your main organs, etc.  It’s how your body maintains that ideal internal temperature of 98.6, whether the temperature outside is 100.4 degrees fahrenheit or not.  It does elevate the heart rate somewhat to be in a higher temperature like a sauna after a workout, but the extra calorie burn is only slight and the risk may not be worth it.

When we sweat, we lose electrolytes – chloride and sodium and water in a plasma-like substance.  Only some sweat glands do release some lipids (fats).  Most of what you are losing through sweat is just water weight, which will come right back on after you drink something (which is a great thing to do after exercise, by the way).  Our weight actually fluctuates throughout the day, so don’t get all excited about a loss of weight after your first hot yoga class.

Sweating too much can be harmful!

It can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, injure your kidneys – even lead to heart failure.  You need proper hydration in order to burn fat stores.  Sitting in a sauna or steam room isn’t going to burn off fat to make you start losing dress sizes.

Sweating and cooling are great de-stressers though..something about that feeling of sweating is something we associate with having worked hard.  Your body does have to work harder to bring itself to the correct temperature, so you could be burning more calories in a hotter classroom as the heart rate and circulation increase.

If wearing a sauna suit made us lose weight, wouldn’t we all be reading this here eating doughnuts in a sauna suit?  They don’t work and they can be dangerous.

So why do some people sweat more than others?

Smoking, caffeine and alcohol increase sweat, what you are wearing can affect it (some synthetic fibers trap heat).  Fat can act as an insulator so some fatter people sweat more.  Some people have more sweat glands than others.  Some people have more active sweat glands than others.  I heard of one study which indicated athletes sweat more than un-fit people because their bodies become more efficient at cooling themselves.  According to the same study published in the Journal of Experimental Physiology, unfit women sweat the least.  Bottom line – don’t necessarily use sweat as an indicator of how good a workout you got.

Heat can make muscles relax more – so you may find you are more bendy at hotter temperatures.  Seniors may benefit from exercising at SLIGHTLY warmer temps..but go too high and you may be more prone to injury from becoming too bendy.

Given the option, I prefer to exercise at temperatures which lead to ideal performance—like 68 -72 degrees or so, rather than those higher temperatures which leave me too tired to perform at my best.  At 68 degrees, I get a better workout at a better intensity, burning more calories overall and increasing my body’s ability to build lean muscle– which helps me burn more calories after exercise while my body is repairing those muscles as I sit back and enjoy a book or something.


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