I do about an hour or so of high-intensity cardio each day, usually on an arch trainer or elliptical, depending on what's available. I find that I sweat a lot. The workout itself doesn't feel amazingly strenuous to me but I usually soak all my clothes, and additionally I generally soak through at least two gym towels (not the full-sized ones, but maybe 16" x 25" face towels) in every workout.

Usually I find it mildly annoying to have sweat all over my body, so I wipe it off with the towels - which is why I soak two of them every day - but I'm wondering if, on balance, this is doing more harm than good. When I'm running outside I usually don't bring a towel and I just assume that the sweat is performing its function and cooling me down, but the gym I go to doesn't have any fans pointed directly at me, and the arch trainer's built-in fan is pathetic and barely noticeable.

Am I basically causing myself more trouble by wiping off my sweat? Does the sweat I wipe off just get immediately replaced anyway? Could this be hurting my workout?

Note: I usually drink 1L of Powerade Zero during my workout, which seems to replace my electrolytes OK. Years ago I used to just drink water and I'd feel ill after 1-2 hours of cardio, but since switching to Powerade that's not a problem.

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    You sweat because your body is trying to cool. It will only hurt your workout if you interrupt your workout to wipe your sweat. Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 4:01

4 Answers 4


A general rule of thumb regarding sweating is that, if it's visible and accumulating, it's not doing its job. The purpose of sweating is to cool you by evaporation. Ideally, the sweat is evaporating as quickly as it is produced and you'll barely even notice it. When you have a lot of sweat, when it's streaming down your face and soaking your clothing, you're basically exceeding the ability of the perspiration to cool you. At that point, by manually wiping away the sweat, you're removing the heat-carrying water on your skin, essentially doing the job that evaporation should have been doing for you.

So, in short, it's not counter-productive so long as the action of wiping away the sweat isn't impairing your ability to do your workout.


Short answer - I'd say No.

Long answer - Wiping off the sweat itself isn't going to cause any issues. If it's annoying you and affecting your performance, then wipe it off. When you're outside running, the air does basically the same thing for you anyway which is generally why you may not find it quite so annoying.

I sweat a lot myself and train in a gym with only a few fans. It's a horrible feeling having sweat pouring down your arms, legs and face - so I too regularly wipe it off. Leaving the sweat on me just annoys the hell out of me.

If you are stopping your running completely to wipe off sweat, then maybe - and it's a big maybe - but I doubt it. If you're stopping every couple of minutes to wipe off sweat and then getting straight back into it, it's almost interval training - which according to many people is better then doing one huge, non-stop stint.

So it may actually be doing you good.

  • I am able to maintain full speed easily while wiping off sweat, I just notice that I feel less exhausted in a cool room than in a hot room, similarly I can imagine if I'm circumventing my cooling mechanism (sweat), I might be hurting my overall performance.
    – Paul
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 6:36

It's all about personal preference, there is no right or wrong answer here. If you want to wipe it off then wipe it off. A suggestion might be trying head bands to just keep the sweat out of your eyes which might keep you from wiping your face all together. Personally I will wipe the sweat of of my forehead if needed.


I think you might be on to something.

The point of sweat is to cool yourself to counter the increased heat production caused by the exercise, the body need to maintain a very precise temperature. Sweat cools you as it evaporates. What happens physically is that the sweat molecules (water) that has the highest velocity (temperature in a macro perspective) will evaporate, leaving what's left with a slightly lower temperature on average, this cools you.

If you wipe away the sweat before it has time to evaporate, it could very well be replaced 1-1 with new sweat since the need to cool is exactly the same as before. So don't wipe it away unless it gets in your eyes, and get better external cooling if possible.

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