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The sweaty chronicles of men and women

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Recently I've been working hard to get back in shape through a combination of running and strengthening exercises (At 5:30 am, no less; I deserve a medal!). I'm starting to see results in the guise of a shrinking waistline and noticeable muscle toning. But there's also been something decidedly less appealing going on: I sweat. A lot. And much more easily than I ever have before. In fact, sometimes it seems that even thinking about a workout brings on the 'glisten'.

This is disconcerting. But I was pondering last night, as I washed my one and only workout outfit for what seemed to be the one millionth time, whether I could put a positive spin on this new development. (I do work in public relations, after all.) Could I be sweating more because I am becoming more fit?

Yes, according to a blog entry in New York Times. Writing for Tara Parker-Pope's Well blog, Gretchen Reynolds explains that active, fit people do sweat earlier, and more, while exercising than their less-fit peers. (Apparently scientists have known this for a while, so my laundry room musings may not have been as inspired as I first thought.) What's even more new and exciting, researchers in Japan have found that men and women vary in their total sweat output per sweat gland. (Wouldn't you have just loved to be the scientists conducting that study?) The fit men sweat more than the fit women. Unfit women were at the bottom of the sweaty totem pole, which is not as enviable as it may seem: By sweating less, the women's core body temperatures rose more rapidly than the other study participants.

This physiological difference between men and women may be due to evolutionary pressures, the researchers conclude:

"It appears," said Yoshimitsu Inoue, Ph.D., a professor of physiology at Osaka International University and one of the authors of the study, "that women are at a disadvantage when they need to sweat a lot during exercise in hot conditions." On the other hand, it may be that women, during evolution, had the good sense to get out of the hot sun, and their bodies adapted accordingly.

In contrast, the men tromped around in the heat chasing game and doing other manly stuff. Timothy Cable, PhD, a professor of exercise physiology at John Moores University in Liverpool, England, agrees:

"Prehistoric men followed the herds," he said, whatever the temperature, while the women, cleverly, sought out the shade. "It's not a bad survival strategy," he said, even today.

And so I am comforted. My clothes may be damp and my skin salty, but I am both fit and (according to these sources) clever. After all, I never run in the hot sun.

Photo by lululemon athletica

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