Exercising in sauna-like temperatures and sweating more may seem like you’re getting a better workout, but is increasing the heat really beneficial? Heated fitness classes—where the room temperatures are set anywhere from 80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit—are rising in popularity. But they might not be as helpful as you’d think.
Some heated fitness centers claim to help you lose weight from just one class, but this weight loss you may experience is due to losing water through sweat. And once you rehydrate properly, you'll notice the numbers on the scale returning to your pre-class starting point.
Additionally, when you raise your body’s internal temperature, it tends to favor burning carbohydrates rather than fat and has trouble reaching its maximum metabolic rate. If you want to lose weight, it’s more beneficial to exercise in a cool, air-conditioned environment.
Another perceived benefit of heated exercise is that the intense sweating helps detoxify our bodies. However, the liver and kidneys do most of the body’s detoxification. In reality, we’re actually losing nutrients like sodium, calcium, and potassium. Excessive sweating not only decreases our supply of these nutrients, but it also contributes to dehydration.
On the other side, training and exercising in heat can benefit athletes and fitness enthusiasts as it helps the body acclimate to working in hot conditions. But for everyone else, the positives are often negligible.
Working out in high temperatures can lead to serious emergencies if you overheat. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (which can be fatal) are all heat-related illnesses that can occur during strenuous activities in hot environments.
Symptoms like cramping, excessive sweating, dizziness, nausea, and headaches are all signs of a heat-related illness. If someone exhibits symptoms of heat stroke, such as confusion, slurred speech, agitation, vomiting, fainting, or rapid heart rate, call 911 or seek immediate medical attention.
When you see someone with signs of a heat-related illness, move him or her to a cool place to rest, shed any excess clothing, fan the skin, and use ice packs, water, or wet clothes to cool the person down. Staying hydrated is also a helpful preventive measure to avoid heat-related illness while keeping your body temperature regulated.
If you do plan on exercising in the heat, make sure you hydrate well before, listen to your body during, and replenish lost fluids and nutrients after. If you experience any concerning symptoms, call 911 or visit your nearest St. Luke’s Health emergency department for immediate medical attention.
National Academy of Sciences, NCBI, U.S. National Library of Medicine | Physiological
Responses to Exercise in the Heat
U.S. News & World Report | Are Hot Workouts Healthier?
Healthline | Does Sweating Help You Burn More Calories?
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