If horses sweat and men perspire, why do women merely glow?

Women have to work harder than men in order to start sweating, while men are more effective sweaters during exercise, according to new research published in the journal Experimental Physiology.

Researchers at Osaka International University and Kobe University asked four groups of subjects (males and females who trained regularly and those who did not) to cycle continuously for an hour in a controlled climate with increasing intensity intervals.

The results showed that men are more efficient at sweating and while exercise training improves sweating in both sexes, the degree of improvement is greater in men, with the difference becoming even more pronounced as the level of exercise intensity increases.

The study’s coordinator Yoshimitsu Inoue commented: ‘It appears that women are at a disadvantage when they need to sweat a lot during exercise, especially in hot conditions.’

Inoue believes there may be an evolutionary reason why men and women have evolved to sweat differently. ‘Women generally have less body fluid than men and may become dehydrated more easily,’ he explains.

‘Therefore the lower sweat loss in women may be an adaptation strategy that attaches importance to survival in a hot environment, while the higher sweat rate in men may be a strategy for greater efficiency of action or labour.’

The findings have implications for exercise and heat tolerance in humans, including shedding light on why the sexes cope differently with extremes of temperature like heat waves.

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