Everybody has a gym story about the guy on the stair climbing machine next to you who is dripping so profusely and puffing so maniacally that you’re in constant danger from flying sweat.
(Whoa! There goes a drop.)
But why is it always a guy? Are women just more conscientious about frequent toweling?
No, says a new study from researchers at Osaka International and Kobe Universities in Japan. Their experiment, published in the journal Experimental Physiology, showed that men not only sweat more than women, something previous research has shown, but are better at it.
Men have a lower perspiration threshold than women, the study said, meaning, the authors suggested, that the male thermostat will trigger sweating at a lower temperature than the female thermostat. This was true for both trained and untrained men compared to trained and untrained women.
That thermostat is located in our heads -- literally -- explained Chris Minson, professor of human exercise physiology at the University of Oregon. When body temperature rises, the brain orders up more skin blood flow and the starts the sweat glands pumping. “The thermoregulatory control centers in the hypothalamus region of the brain respond differently with training,” he said. If an untrained person might normally sweat at, say, 99.1 degrees of body temperature, with training, that threshold could drop to, say, 98.8.
The Japanese scientists suggested that male testosterone might be behind the gender difference, but Minson, who knows and respects the Japanese team, was cautious. Controlling for every parameter in such experiments is tough, he said. It could be that men sweat more profusely because they are doing more work. Even if both genders exercised at the same V02 max, most men would be bigger and weigh more and so would be using more energy and generating more watts. Plus, their extra skin surface area means more sweat.
Also, Minson said, female body temperature rises and falls throughout the menstrual cycle, which could further muddy the waters.
Whatever the answer, years of anecdotal gym experience suggest that women really do have that whole toweling thing down.
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