Effect of pre-cooling, with and without thigh cooling, on strain and endurance exercise performance in the heat

J D Cotter, G G Sleivert, W S Roberts, M A Febbraio
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. Part A, Molecular & Integrative Physiology 2001, 128 (4): 667-77
Body cooling before exercise (i.e. pre-cooling) reduces physiological strain in humans during endurance exercise in temperate and warm environments, usually improving performance. This study examined the effectiveness of pre-cooling humans by ice-vest and cold (3 degrees C) air, with (LC) and without (LW) leg cooling, in reducing heat strain and improving endurance performance in the heat (35 degrees C, 60% RH). Nine habitually-active males completed three trials, involving pre-cooling (LC and LW) or no pre-cooling (CON: 34 degrees C air) before 35-min cycle exercise: 20 min at approximately 65% VO2peak then a 15-min work-performance trial. At exercise onset, mean core (Tc, from oesophagus and rectum) and skin temperatures, forearm blood flow (FBF), heart rate (HR), and ratings of exertion, body temperature and thermal discomfort were lower in LW and LC than CON (P<0.05). They remained lower at 20 min [e.g. Tc: CON 38.4+/-0.2 (+/-S.E.), LW 37.9+/-0.1, and LC 37.8+/-0.1 degrees C; HR: 177+/-3, 163+/-3 and 167+/-3 b.p.m.), except that FBF was equivalent (P=0.10) between CON (15.5+/-1.6) and LW (13.6+/-1.0 ml.100 ml tissue(-1) x min(-1)). Subsequent power output was higher in LW (2.95+/-0.24) and LC (2.91+/-0.25) than in CON (2.52+/-0.28 W kg(-1), P=0.00, N=8), yet final Tc remained lower. Pre-cooling by ice-vest and cold air effectively reduced physiological and psychophysical strain and improved endurance performance in the heat, irrespective of whether thighs were warmed or cooled.

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