Let’s just boil it all down. People are obsessed, obsessed with sweat. A recent New York Times article (sans WJB) takes a look at the hot trend, literally, and asks the burning question: what gives, heat misers? Heated classes from yoga to spinning to crazy mash-ups of ballet, vinyasa and weightlifting are popping up all over Manhattan (and LA).
According to the article, fitness fanatics with disposable income are spending top dollar to sweat their brains out in classes that make Bikram‘s 105 degree heat feel like a stroll through a cool spring breeze.
A small but growing upscale clientele, most conditioned to years of regular workouts, won’t leave the locker room for much below 90 degrees. (Typical gyms are 68 to 72 degrees, in line with American College of Sports Medicine guidelines; Manhattan’s hottest recorded outdoor temperature is 106.)
We’ve seen the rise of hot yoga in recent years, and we get that there are some benefits to heated rooms: more pliable muscles, the feeling of a good sweat and the challenge of doing the same work, but being really freaking hot while doing it. But this is getting extreme. Like, holy mother of hell, 110 degrees extreme, and it all seems to be for the pure psychological boost and time saving.
Says Alexandra Cohen, 42, the supervising producer of “The View,”
“I don’t have time for hours in the gym doing cardio and weights and then sitting in the steam room to detox.”
“A good day is when I have to literally wring my clothes out,” she said. “Some people do crazy cleanses. I do hot-room workouts.” She mused: “I tell you, your body adjusts. I probably need to make it harder at this point.”
Bikram was too slow for Ms. Cohen and hot power yoga was too easy, so she took up Carlos Rodriguez’s beat your asana combo of the Brazilian martial art capoeira, power vinyasas, calisthenics and weights. All this in an hour. Essentially, warming up is just a waste of time when walking straight into the fires of workout hell.
“I’m the crazy girl who gets there early just to get the spot under the heating vent,” said Karin Wilk, 45, an M.B.A. student in New York who takes hot classes exclusively. “I feel like it totally pushes me to the edge, and nothing else can bother me the rest of the day after surviving hell.”
Cool. Tapas! But is hell safe and does it really work you any harder?
Douglas Casa, a kinesiology professor at the University of Connecticut and an expert on athletic exertion in heat, said that while there’s no question that hot workouts are harder, any benefits peak at about 100 degrees. “Above that, you’re just jeopardizing safety,” said Dr. Casa, who is also the chief operating officer of the university’s Korey Stringer Institute, named for the Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman who died of heat stroke in 2001.
The trainer Tracy Anderson, whose clients have included Gwyneth Paltrow and, at one point, Madonna, said her research put the sweet spot for safety but “a muscle state that promotes change” at 86 degrees and 65 percent humidity. Dr. Casa judged that that was about right, “at least for sweat effect.”
Right, but all that sopping sweat is totally detoxing your body right? Not exactly.*
“That’s a hoax,” [Casa] said. “I don’t think there’s any inherent advantage to sweating more. Some people just like the feeling.”
And it’s probably just dehydrating you.
Still, the need to feel like you’re vinyasa-ing through the Sahara Desert or the soupy thick humidity of equatorial jungle tropics is on the rise (and so is coconut water stock, we imagine. hydrate!). It’s a real bummer though, because we were just about to launch our Tundra Yoga fundraising campaign on kickstarter. It’s a combination of yoga, figure skating and ice fishing. The world may never know the incredible benefits of iglookatasana.
Hint: if you’re looking to detox, take a look at what’s doing the ‘toxing. Twist. Rinse. Rest. Repeat.
Detoxifying the sweat detoxing claim, by request. Food for thought:
Businessweek – Sweat Lodges, Steam Rooms Aren’t for Detox:
Though the main component of sweat is water, sweat does contain small amounts of dissolved minerals and trace elements, including sodium, lactate, urea, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, nickel, iron, chromium — none of which are considered toxic, [Dr. Rachel Vreeman, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine] said.
When you sweat, the major thing you lose is water — something your body can’t survive long without.
“The term ‘detoxify’ is used so often that it makes people think that special steps need to be taken so ‘detoxifying’ happens,” Vreeman said. “It leads to people not trusting their bodies. Your body, however, does not need special cleansing efforts. What it does need is for you to get enough fluids and to eat a healthy, balanced diet.”
That’s not to say sweating, or spending time in a sauna, has been proven to have no health benefits.
About.com – Sweating out the toxins:
The function of sweat is to cool your body down when it is overheated. This can happen during a vigorous exercise session (such as hot yoga) or by 9 a.m. on an August morning in the Bayou City. The cause of the sweat does not significantly affect its content, which is primarily water with traces of minerals, though not enough to merit the term detoxification.
LATimes.com – You sweat, but toxins likely stay:
The bottom line: Sweat does contain trace amounts of toxins, says Dr. Dee Anna Glaser, a professor of dermatology at St. Louis University and founding member of the International Hyperhidrosis Society, a medical group dedicated to the study and treatment of heavy sweating.
But, Glaser, adds, in the big picture, sweat has only one function: Cooling you down when you overheat. “Sweating for the sake of sweating has no benefits,” she says. “Sweating heavily is not going to release a lot of toxins.”
CNN.com – Should you work out when you’re sick?:
[Dr. Rick Kellerman of the American Academy of Family Physicians] said it is a myth that you can sweat out germs and toxins. He acknowledges that “low levels of exercise increase endorphins and benefit the body, but an intense workout that creates high levels of endorphins can wear down the immune system.”
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