Thermoregulatory, cardiovascular, and perceptual responses to intermittent cooling during exercise in a hot, humid outdoor environment

Michelle A Cleary, Michelle G Toy, Rebecca M Lopez
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2014, 28 (3): 792-806
Decreasing core body temperature during exercise may improve exercise tolerance, facilitate acclimatization, and prevent heat illness during summer training. We sought to evaluate the effectiveness of intermittent superficial cooling on thermoregulatory, cardiovascular, and perceptual responses during exercise in a hot humid environment. We used a randomized, counterbalanced, repeated measures investigation with 2 conditions (control and cooling) during exercise and recovery outdoors on artificial turf in a hot, humid tropical climate in the sun (wet bulb globe temperature outdoors [WBGTo], 27.0 ± 0.8° C; range, 25.8-28.1° C) and in the shade (WBGTo, 25.4 ± 0.9° C; range, 24.3-26.8° C). Participants were 10 healthy males (age, 22.6 ± 1.6 years; height, 176.0 ± 6.9 cm; mass, 76.5 ± 7.8 kg; body fat, 15.6 ± 5.4%) who wore shorts and T-shirt (control) or "phase change cooling" vest (cooling) during 5-minute rest breaks during 60 minutes of intense American football training and conditioning exercises in the heat and 30 minutes of recovery in the shade. Throughout, we measured core (Tgi) and skin (Tchest) temperature, heart rate (HR), thermal and thirst sensations, and rating of perceived exertion. We found significant (p ≤ 0.001) hypohydration (-2.1%); for Tgi, we found no significant differences between conditions (p = 0.674) during exercise and progressive decreases during recovery (p < 0.001). For [INCREMENT]Tg,i we found no significant (p = 0.090) differences. For Tchest, we found significantly (p < 0.001) decreased skin temperature in the cooling condition (Tchest, 31.85 ± 0.43° C) compared with the control condition (Tchest, 34.38 ± 0.43° C) during exercise and significantly (p < 0.001) lower skin temperature in the cooling condition (Tchest, 31.24 ± 0.47° C) compared with the control condition (Tchest, 33.48 ± 0.47° C) during recovery. For HR, we found no significant difference (p = 0.586) between the conditions during exercise; however, we did find significantly (p < 0.001) lower HR during recovery. Thermal sensations were significantly (p = 0.026) decreased in the cooling (4.4 ± 0.2 points) compared with the control (5.0 ± 0.2 points) condition but not for other perceptual responses. The cooling effects of "phase change cooling" material were effective in reducing skin temperature but did not sufficiently reduce core body temperature or cardiovascular strain.

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