Why We Sweat
The average person has a baseline core temperature of between 98 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. While our body has some flexibility with temperature, if we get too far to one end of the spectrum or the other, things can go badly. In order to keep us in range, our bodies thermoregulate--or maintain our core temperature--by heating us up or cooling us down.
- When our internal temperature rises, sensors in our central nervous system (CNS) send signals to various organs and systems in our body.
- Our body does two things to cool us down--we sweat, and we radiate heat.
- Sweating cools our skin as the sweat evaporates.
- Vasodilation, which makes the blood vessels under our skin wider, increases blood flow to the skin and away from our warm inner body. The heat radiates off our body, which also cools us down.
How We Detoxify
Despite popular belief, sweating itself doesn’t “detoxify” the body. While there are very small amounts of toxins released through our sweat, sweat is made almost entirely of salt and water, and its primary function is to cool the body. The liver and the kidneys are the true detoxers in the body, which filter and then release--through urine and feces--the harmful substances we encounter. In this way, exercise DOES detox the body, by maintaining liver and kidney health. It's all about taking care of your body's natural defenses and processes.
The Mental Detox
One form of detoxification that is often overlooked is a mental detox. A mental detox is like a vacation for our mind. Over the course of the day, we encounter countless stressors—at work, home, and personally. And when we’re running from one thing to the next as we so often are, these stressors can start to pile up, adding to our baseline levels of stress and anxiety. We might start at a relatively low baseline when we feel relaxed and calm, but each stressor we encounter “ups” our baseline to make us a little more stressed each time. We’ll continue this way, carrying all that extra stress, until the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back– some seemingly small stressor will set us off completely–because our levels are just too high. We need a mental detox- a chance to reset.
Turns out exercise, especially mind-body exercise like Pilates, is an excellent way to mentally detox. While you are active, your body naturally releases feel good chemicals (remember I wrote about these last month?) called endorphins that relieve stress and elevate your mood. These endorphins, combined with the sense of accomplishment that often accompanies finishing a good Pilates workout, bring down our stress levels to a more healthy baseline.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is you don’t have to sweat for Pilates to work wonders on your body (though you often will sweat!) When practiced regularly, Pilates DOES detox the body by maintaining both physical and mental health.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!