by Jessica Smith, REDBOOK
It's the middle of your workout, and you are working hard, and you are drenched with sweat! Isn't that a sign of a seriously effective workout? Not exactly, says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise science at Auburn University in Alabama.
"The reason we sweat is to control our body's temperature", says Olson. "When liquid hits our skin (from the inside) and then evaporates, the evaporation is cooling." But don't take those beads of sweat as an indication of intensity, or how many calories you are burning, warns Olson. "In fact, you actually burn more calories running outdoors in the cold versus summer in the heat," she says.
How is this possible? "To warm our bodies," Olson explains, "our muscles will perform extra small and rapid contractions that are usually not felt, but anytime your muscles contract more, they use extra calories. Heat is released every time a calorie is burned - and this is what helps keep the body's core temperature up and stable. Sometimes the twitching is very noticeable and we call it shivering. But, the process of sweating does not require active calorie burning."
Related: 10 Ways to Beat Belly Bloat
Bottom line? Olson says don't rely on sweat to gauge your workout intensity (sorry hot yoga fans). Instead, Olson recommends monitoring your heart rate and/or perceived exertion levels to provide you with a better measurement of energy expenditure (calories burned).
Jessica Smith is a certified fitness lifestyle expert and creator of the 10 Pounds Down DVD series.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.