4. Sweating may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
Both exercise and passive sweating (periodic sauna use) may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
A 2016 study showed an association between sauna use and reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia among Finnish men. While the cause of these diseases is not widely understood, other studies have shown that moderate exercise such as regular walking increases the size of brain areas linked to planning and memory, which generally delays the progress of cognitive decline.
Experiments in varying age groups show that the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory and learning, responds well to aerobic exercise and grows as fitness increases.
5. Sweating can protect your body from bacteria
Our bodies have many defense mechanisms to protect against bacteria and disease. This is an area where sweat shines. Sweat contains a concentration of antimicrobial peptides called dermcidin that protects your skin from external bacteria. As one of the first lines of defense for your body, some researchers say it’s more effective than traditional antibiotics because germs can’t quickly develop resistance to it.
This is not the same, however, as “detoxifying” the body through sweat. Intense sweat sessions tend to be falsely glorified as ways to remove toxins from your body when the credit for that job is actually owed to the liver and kidneys. While small quantities of toxic substances may be detected in sweat, the act of sweating is not an efficient way for the body to rid itself from harmful substances.
Before you intentionally seek out the heat, consider:
All the studies focused on heat training and fitness gains were conducted in a controlled and closely monitored environment. If you choose to incorporate heat therapy into your training, first consult a physician to determine if it’s safe for you, then start slowly, be strategic, and keep certain factors within your control.
- Extensive sweating can lead to dangerous states of dehydration. Always start your workout hydrated and continue to hydrate, and replace electrolytes after you work out.
- Limit the amount of time in the heat.
- Just like you wouldn’t run a speed workout every day, running in extreme or excessive heat is not recommended every day.
- Running in the heat is always more difficult for your body than in cooler temperatures. If you have an extremely taxing or difficult workout, it is generally better to complete it in the cooler part of the day, then do a short, easy run in the warmer hours if you want to add that strategic heat stress.
- Use heat training carefully. A run in the heat is equivalent to a hard day. Be strategic about when to use these days and always let your body rest in between.
By Kate Schwartz. Schwartz has been running competitively for 20 years, and she currently runs with the Asheville Running Collective. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband, Alex, and their cat, Clementine.