Women are sniffers. Women smell everything, and the universal response from the man in their life is “I don’t smell anything”. My wife can usually tell what I’ve been doing by my odor. What I’ve eaten, where I’ve been , who I’ve met is all downloaded and analysed in one sniff.
So I’m engaged in a constant battle to stink less. The problem is I sweat; I sweat lots, particularly while running. So after a long run I stink. Running teaches the body to sweat more and more efficiently, runners have more sweat glands. Luckily for me, smells that your nose encounters regularly aren’t obnoxious. Apparently you never smell yourself, the sense of smell adapts quickly so you won’t smell yourself after the first couple of minutes. Most people think that they never stink. But it’s all an illusion; we simply become accustomed and desensitised to things that are familiar. The brain actually adapts to bad smells, if it didn’t, it would be overloaded by the constant sensory input. However the reaction to scent varies. In fact the sense of smell may to be linked to personality traits – people who are more uptight are more sensitive to bad smells (Seo et al., 2013). Unfortunately for my wife, women consistently out-perform men on all tests of smelling ability (Sergeant, 2010; Novakova et al., 2013). So after a long run I’m banished to the utility room to get stripped. “Don’t forget to prewash”………. Pre wash – what’s a prewash? “And wash them at 60 degrees!!” So I’m left standing naked with my running gear in the washing machine whilst trying to choose the correct combinations of cycle and temperatures, hoping I’ve put the powder in the right tray!!!
But why do I sweat so much? In fact, sweating is just one of the several characteristics unique to humans which suggest endurance running played an important role in our evolution. Most land animals can outsprint humans over short distances — having four legs gives them the advantage. But over long distances, humans can outrun almost any animal because we cool ourselves by sweating rather than panting (Lieberman e Bramble, 2007). We can stay cool at speeds and distances that would overheat other animals. On a hot day a human has even outrun a horse in a marathon. The bad news for a runners family, co – workers and friends is the fitter one becomes during running training the more efficient you become at losing heat – so you sweat more and smell worse after your runs (Jay et al., 2011). More than a million humans run marathons voluntarily each year, sweating and endurance running is clearly something that identifies us as humans and we have evolved to be amazing at it. But evolution has not given some of us (men) the necessary skills to cope with the smelly aftermath and do the washing!
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LIEBERMAN, D. E.; BRAMBLE, D. M. The evolution of marathon running : capabilities in humans. Sports Med, v. 37, n. 4-5, p. 288-90, 2007. ISSN 0112-1642 (Print)
NOVAKOVA, L.; VARELLA VALENTOVA, J.; HAVLICEK, J. Olfactory performance is predicted by individual sex-atypicality, but not sexual orientation. PLoS One, v. 8, n. 11, p. e80234, 2013. ISSN 1932-6203.
SEO, H. S.; LEE, S.; CHO, S. Relationships between personality traits and attitudes toward the sense of smell. Front Psychol, v. 4, p. 901, 2013. ISSN 1664-1078 (Print)
SERGEANT, M. J. Female perception of male body odor. Vitam Horm, v. 83, p. 25-45, 2010. ISSN 0083-6729 (Print)