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Sweat With Odor When Exercising

By Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell ; Updated July 18, 2017

While working up a sweat during exercise can indicate that you've successfully raised your heart rate and had an effective workout, the odor that may accompany the sweat can cause embarrassment. Sweating and body odor are natural and healthy responses to exercise. The amount of odor you emit from sweating can vary from person to person.

Sweat Glands

The sweat glands regulate body temperature and are responsible for perspiration and body odor. Sweat balances body fluids and chemicals and keeps your skin hydrated. Aprocrine sweat glands, in particular, can lead to body odor while sweating during exercise. Apocrine glands develop in areas where clusters of hair follicles congregate such as on your scalp, armpits and groin. More often than not, body odor stems from the bacterial breakdown of apocrine sweat, explains CNN Health.


Sweat itself doesn't cause an unpleasant odor. The smell occurs when perspiration touches bacteria on your skin. Strenuous exercise like running or cycling uphill and/or working out in hot weather cause most people to break out in a sweat. Hormone levels, certain drugs, your diet and even your mood can affect the extent of perspiration, as well as the accompanying odor you generate. Genetics also influence the amount of sweat and degree of body odor you experience during exercise.


Cutting down on garlic, onions and other foods with strong odors may help diminish body odor. Adding zinc or magnesium through dietary supplements or a nutritious diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains also may also help. Wheat grass supplements are natural body deodorizers that can help prevent unpleasant body odor, according to Go Ask Alice!, a website published by Columbia University. Certain medical conditions, such as heart and thyroid problems, kidney failure and diabetes, may cause excessive sweating and unusual body odor. Contact your doctor if you notice unexplained changes in sweating or the smell of perspiration while exercising. Sweating too little is known as anhidrosis, while excessive perspiration is called hyperhidrosis. Either extreme can be cause for concern.


Sweating is necessary to help prevent overheating when exercising. However, as foul-smelling odor has no useful purpose, you can usually prevent it with the use of antiperspirants and deodorants. Speak to your doctor if odor becomes a problem that you cannot control with over-the-counter products. Sweating with odor may be embarrassing, but everyone has body odor from time to time; other people may be oblivious to what you perceive as an offensive odor.

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