There are several physiological responses to working out that all of us expect. For example, your heart rate and body temperature will increase, and you will likely start breathing harder.
Due to the increase in body temperature—we also expect to start sweating while exercising.
However, some people seemingly perform a rather vigorous workout and find their body and their clothing completely dry afterward.
This then incites the question, “Why don’t I sweat when I work out?”
In this article, we will look at what causes sweating while exercising and then the potential causes for not sweating during exercise, aiming to answer the question: “Why don’t I sweat when I work out?”
More specifically, we will cover the following:
- Why Don’t I Sweat When I Work Out?
- Is It Bad If I Don’t Sweat During Exercise?
- Tips for Exercising With Hypohidrosis or Anhidrosis
Let’s dive in!
Why Don’t I Sweat When I Work Out?
There are several potential reasons why you may not sweat while working out or if you find that you barely sweat despite doing vigorous exercise.
Here are some of the most common causes of a lack of sweating during a workout:
Dehydration is the most common cause of transient anhidrosis or why you are not sweating while working out.Dehydration refers to the condition in which your body’s water levels are lower than normal.
When this happens, your body tries to conserve as much fluid or water as possible for vital processes.
Water forms the plasma component of blood, which is the liquid portion that allows blood to flow and carry blood cells, oxygen, and nutrients around the body.
Plasma constitutes about 55% of the total volume of blood.
Without adequate blood plasma levels, your blood can be too viscous or “thick,” which can impede circulation and the delivery of essential oxygen and nutrients to your vital organs like the brain, lungs, organs, and heart itself.
As such, less body fluid is available to form sweat, so the body preferentially turns off (or largely attenuates) this thermoregulatory process.
Therefore, because sweating is a natural mechanism that helps bring down body temperature, one of the consequences of exercising in a dehydrated state and not hydrating properly before and during the workouts is that your body is unable to capitalize on the cooling effects of the sweating mechanism.
This can lead to overheating, thus increasing the risk of heat illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, particularly if you are exercising in a warm climate or for a long period of time.
Furthermore, studies have found that a decrease in body water or dehydration of 1% of your body weight can impair cognitive function, while just a 2% loss of body fluid and dehydration can impair athletic performance.
It seems likely that one of the contributing factors to this decrease in exercise performance from dehydration is at least partially attributable to the fact that your body cannot readily rely on sweating to cool down your core temperature.
As you overheat, your tolerance for vigorous physical activity declines.
#2: Workout Intensity
Many people ask, “Why don’t I sweat when I work out?“ but they are not considering their workout type.
As mentioned, we sweat to help cool the body down whenever the core temperature rises in order to help maintain homeostasis.
Therefore, it is expected that you should sweat when performing vigorous exercises such as intense cardio workouts, HIIT, plyometrics, and circuit training.
However, if you are doing low-intensity exercise or taking a lot of rest in between sets of high-intensity exercise (whether strength training or speed training intervals), the physical activity that you are doing may not elevate your body temperature enough to elicit a significant sweating response.
For example, a relatively gentle Hatha yoga routine, walking or hiking outside on a cold day, or weightlifting with long breaks in between relatively short sets may not get your body overheated enough to sweat.
#3: Workout Environment
Lastly, you might find that you do not sweat much while working out if you are running or exercising outdoors in the cold winter or working out in the gym with air conditioning blasting and an air ventilation system cranking away.
Again, because sweating is a response to an increase in your body temperature, if your body is in an environment that is notably cold so that the workout you are doing is barely enough to maintain normal homeostatic body temperature without getting chilled, it is expected that you will not be sweating much.
This will especially be the case if you are dressed for warmer conditions and feel freezing before your workout starts and if your workout is short and/or low intensity.
Some people find that they sweat excessively during exercise or even during everyday life.
This condition, termed hyperhidrosis, is thought to affect about 5% of the population.
On the other end of the spectrum, people who do not sweat much while working out may have hypohidrosis.
Hyperhidrosis is a condition characterized by the diminished ability to sweat or an inability to sweat sufficiently to cool the body.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are several risk factors for anhidrosis or hypohidrosis:
Some medications can affect your sweat rate or your ability to sweat. Examples include anticholinergic medications, tricyclic antidepressants, certain antihistamines, Botox, opioids, and bladder medications.
Other people may have issues with the sweat glands functioning properly. This may occur due to burns, radiation therapy, pore-blocking conditions like psoriasis, and other similar situations.
Additionally, because sweating is an autonomic nervous system (ANS) response, conditions that affect the proper functioning of the ANS can reduce sweating rates.
Other conditions, such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and any sort of neuropathy, may also cause you not to sweat while working out.
Genetics can also contribute to your sweat rate.
Is It Bad If I Don’t Sweat During Exercise?
It can be confusing, if not alarming if you do not sweat when you work out.
After all, studies suggest that the human body contains about 2-4 million sweat glands.
Moreover, sweating is a thermoregulatory response to an increased body temperature, and the core body temperature increases when we exercise.
In addition to helping cool the body, there are other functions of sweat, such as helping manage fluid and electrolyte levels and hydrating your skin.
The most important thing to establish is that it is not necessarily bad or indicative of a serious issue if you are not sweating while working out.
All of us have different sweat rates.
However, there are certain precautions you may need to take if you cannot sweat enough during exercise.
Unfortunately, hypohidrosis can be dangerous if you are an avid athlete or you exercise in hot conditions, particularly doing full-body, vigorous workouts like running or cycling, wherein your body really needs to sweat to help maintain your core temperature within a safe range.
Accordingly, hyperhidrosis can increase the risk of heat exhaustion, and heat stroke or have serious and even fatal consequences of overheating during exercise.
Therefore, discussing your concerns about your inability to sweat while working out with your healthcare provider is important.
Tips for Exercising With Hypohidrosis or Anhidrosis
Adjustments to different medications may help resolve a sweating issue, but in cases where there still seems to be a lack of sweating response during exercise, you may need to take precautions when working out.
For example, instead of running, cycling, hiking, or walking outside on a hot summer day, you may need to take your workout indoors, where you can exercise in a climate-controlled environment with air conditioning.
Avoid exercising in direct sunlight.
Furthermore, you may need to limit the duration of endurance workouts if you find that your body is overheating and you are not sweating enough to cool down.
Additionally, it is also crucial to stay properly hydrated before and during your workouts. To this end, avoid consuming food and beverages that can dehydrate you, namely excessive alcohol and caffeine.
Finally, choose your workout clothing wisely.
Opt for clothing that will keep you cool and is highly breathable to help prevent additional heat from building up and getting trapped underneath close to your body.
Choose light colors, particularly if you are going to be exercising out in the sun.
If you feel like you sweat too much but aren’t sure why, check out our guide to stress sweat vs. regular sweat here.