God knows how many times my wife has said to me, “Ew, you’re all sweaty” after I come home from the gym. Like most guys my size (6’6″), I tend to sweat a lot. My wife, on the other hand, will be surprised if she works up a few drops of moisture after a 30-minute HIIT workout. I’ve always believed that men tend to be heavier sweaters than women.
Turns out I (and probably most of the world along with me) was wrong. A study published in Experimental Physiology found that gender has nothing to do with how much you sweat. Instead, it’s all about the size of your body.
Your body has two cooling mechanisms: increasing circulation to the surface of your skin, and sweating. Your body size determines which of the two mechanisms your body uses more.
Australian and Japanese scientists gathered 60 people (24 women and 36 men) and put them through light exercise and moderate exercise trials. The temperature in the room was set to 82.4 F (28 C), and the humidity at 36%. In this environment, the body is able to either increase circulation to the skin or increase sweat output in order to mitigate the effects of exercise.
Interestingly enough, both the men and the women saw the same increase in body temperature. Body temperature rises as a result of exercise until the cooling mechanisms take care of it. This identical rise in body temperature indicates that exercise has the same effects on men and women alike; men don’t get hotter (more drastic rise in body temperature) than women while they work out.
The study found just one difference between participants: smaller people (men and women alike) with more skin surface area per kilogram of body mass tended to sweat less. Their bodies increased circulation to their skin to let off the heat. The larger people (men and women alike) ended up sweating more because the amount of blood needed to increase skin circulation would be too great for the demands placed on their body by exercise.
When it comes to sweating, gender doesn’t make a difference. It’s all about size. The larger you are, the harder it is for your body to cool off through circulation alone, so it resorts to perspiring to let off the body heat building up as a result of your exercise.
1. Notley, S. R., Park, J., Tagami, K., Ohnishi, N. and Taylor, N. A. S. (2017), “Variations in body morphology explain sex differences in thermoeffector function during compensable heat stress.” Exp Physiol, 102: 545–562. doi:10.1113/EP086112.