Differences in the amount that people sweat are due to body size rather than gender, researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW) have shown.
Conventional wisdom has it that men sweat more than women, or as the Victorian-era saying puts it, “horses sweat, gentlemen perspire, but ladies merely glow”. And previous scientific research appeared to support that view.
However, a study by researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW) and Japan’s Mie Prefectural College of Nursing has shown that women are just as sweaty as men, but big people sweat more than small people.
Study co-author Associate Professor Nigel A.S. Taylor from UOW’s School of Medicine said the body has two main ways to cool down: sweating, and increasing blood flow to the skin’s surface. The study found that smaller males and females relied more on increased circulation to cool down, while larger males and females relied more on sweating.
The study brought all 60 participants to the same deep-body temperature by having them exercise in warm conditions.
“What we found was that all of the participants who were on the small side, whether they were men or women, preferentially lost heat by increasing their skin blood flow, and all of those who were on the larger side preferentially lost heat through sweating,” Associate Professor Taylor said.
He said that smaller people have more surface area per kilogram of body mass than larger people and so are able to cool themselves more efficiently by increasing blood flow – bringing heat – to the surface of their skin. Larger people have to sweat more to get the same cooling effect.
“We found that less than 5 per cent of the difference in the heat loss between men and women could be explained by their gender – so almost nothing. It was all about body size and shape, which makes perfect sense because we evolved to be really efficient and why would someone start to sweat if they could rely on another, more efficient mechanism to cool down?”
Association Professor Taylor said that previous studies had not exercised the same degree of experimental control.
“To answer questions such as these, we must ensure that the only thing that is different between our participants, and the stresses to which we expose them, is their gender. Because we had all these variables matched, our participants all worked at the same relative workload and so they all reached the same deep-body temperature,” he said.
“Under these conditions, we were able to observe these unique results.”
You can read more about this intriguing study here. Story credit University of Wollongong newsroom.
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