For most people, the sweat that comes with a hot yoga session or an hour in an infrared sauna has a lot of benefits. Maybe sweating relaxes you, makes you feel strong, or—as you'll hear a number of people say—helps you "get rid of toxins."
If hot yoga is your thing, by all means, keep it up. A heated asana practice is great for building strength and flexibility, and infrared saunas promote relaxation and can boost happiness in the cold winter months. But if "sweating out toxins" is your goal, read on.
The science behind "sweating out toxins."
First things first: Sweating out toxins is not a myth. Research has shown that sweat does contain toxic materials, like heavy metals and BPAs, which are found in plastic. But the amount found in sweat is low, as sweat is 99 percent water. So at the end of the day, there's no scientific evidence to back up the benefits of sweating out toxins.
In fact, we have organs that are responsible for helping us detox—the liver and kidneys. And letting them do their job naturally is probably your best bet when it comes to detoxing. That's what they're there for.
What's the upside of sweating?
While it may not help get rid of toxins in any significant way, sweat is far from useless. If you've ever wondered why you barely break a sweat during a cold-weather run, it's because our sweat serves a very specific function: It's responsible for keeping us cool.
"Your body constantly works to regulate its temperature. Increased heat and blood flow during exercise amps up sweating, and sweat releases that heat," explains Jason Boehm, certified nutrition specialist. "Sweating cools you off."
When sweat has a negative impact on the body.
Of course, dripping sweat isn't always a positive thing—especially when you're forcing it. According to Beth Cooke, a teacher at New York's Sky Ting Yoga, too much hot yoga can be rough on the body.
"It's both dehydrating and tough on the complexion," she explains. "My skin has cleared up tremendously since I stopped teaching hot yoga, and my urine is finally clear again. If you're a hot yoga fan, got for it—just drink tons of water and make sure the floors, mats, and air are rigorously cleaned. Otherwise, germs can spread easily! I know because I used to be sick all the time, and since quitting hot yoga I haven't been sick once. Knock on wood!"
Again, if hot yoga and infrared saunas make you feel happier and healthier, go to town. Just make sure you arm yourself with information about what your sweat is really doing (or not doing) for you.
Are you actually getting a good workout if you don't sweat while you exercise? Here's how to find out.