Temperature Control: Sweat vs. Air Conditioning

Are you hot yet?

The summer is turning, umm, a tad warm. And perspiration is everywhere. For some reason Western culture has a problem with perspiration, exemplified by the Victorian-era pronunciation that "Horses sweat, men perspire, and ladies glow".

Glow my foot. When I was done with cello practice yesterday, I had to wipe the glow off my forehead. I never suspected that playing the cello can be an upper-body workout. We have the attic fan on, and the living room has been pleasant enough to sit in - until the cello practice, when one is only ostensibly sitting on a chair.

My first reaction: Ack! I'm sweating! But then I shrugged and got on with it. I mean, the cool thing in yoga now (or should it be called the hot thing?) is hot yoga, where they heat the room to 90F and make you do vigorous yoga. But I don't need that: I can do hot cello, right in my living room.

Many cultures value perspiration: think of the sauna, the spa, the hot spring resorts in volcanic regions, and hot yoga. Because it turns out sweating is good for you.

About the smell: it is the secretion of chemicals induced by anxiety that makes your sweat smell. In contrast, relaxation sweat doesn't smell (of course, all old sweat does smell). Think about it: when you're giving an important presentation, or at your annual evaluation, or when you get frustrated sitting in traffic: those are the situations that make your sweat smell. But on your weekend run, or when you're out hammering a play stand for your children and whistling quietly to yourself, or when you're paddling around the lake, you get good clean sweat.

Relaxed sweat really is clean, for it has bacteria-fighting properties: it works to keep the bacteria on your skin from invading you, thus keeping infections and colds at bay. Sweat is even on your side in your fight to keep down acne and other facial impurities. That's why when you go to a spa for a facial, the first thing they do is drape your face in a hot towel.

Then, at the end of the day (or earlier if you can't wait), you can wash the sweat plus the impurities away in a nice cool shower. Even a quick navy shower, if you make the water progressively cooler as you go, can give you a nice reset in your body temperature: there is nothing like running water to take away excess body heat.

Of course, you could turn on the air conditioning. If you are very young, or very old, or pregnant, it's probably a good idea. Once a luxury reserved for the 1%, it has made its way into most of our homes, offices, and cars. But there are good reasons to keep the AC turned off as much as you can.


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