(video, 9 min.)
A new study finds that sweating doesn’t burn calories: a single 30-minute session of exercise burns no more fat than a 20-minute session of “fat burning exercises” such as jogging or cycling.
The findings have profound implications for people who want to control their waist line, as well as those trying to curb their rising BMIs. People who regularly train, stay active, and avoid sugar may get significant fitness benefits by sweating. However, the effects are minimal and even less dramatic than people may think.
The idea that sweating burns fat was first posited in 2002, when researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago published a study in Physical Therapy journal. They found that when the researchers took a group of male runners and asked them to sweat on a treadmill, it was possible that they lost weight.
The problem has been that researchers have been unable to determine if sweating actually burns fat, and they don’t have a good picture of how much. So, researchers decided to perform a meta-analysis to look at various studies on sweating and body composition.
The researchers then identified and reviewed the research on sweating as well as the research on fat burning exercises.
What they found was a pattern in the research that suggests sweating does not burn fat. Not only does sweating burn calories during exercise, but there isn’t any specific effect of sweating on obesity. The authors explain,
“The study did not identify any studies or data that would support the claim that any specific form of exercise is more important to increase fat burning capacity than another. The majority of fat burned in exercise is not due to the mobilization of fat or the reduction of peripheral fat mass. It is rather the production of heat, which does not depend on fat or peripheral storage.”
This means that if sweating doesn’t burn muscle, it doesn’t burn fat or body fat, and it isn’t a good idea to sweat in an exercise environment where you are likely to sweat, says Dr. Jennifer L. Chiaverini, a doctor of nutrition and research at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
She emphasizes that there’s no hard and fast rule that says sweating shouldn’t be a part of your exercise routine. “It’s a matter of understanding how you’re using your body and how you train it,” Chiaverini says. She also cautions that the studies are all over the place and that, although most of the evidence suggests sweating is not a great way to burn
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