Jan 29, 2015
“Precooling” May Help Deter Heat Stress

When athletes are working out in hot weather, warming up should include cooling down. That’s the finding of a study published in the May edition of the International Journal of Sports Medicine.

The study, conducted by the Netherlands-based TNO research institute, tested the effect of “precooling,” in this case by having athletes wear special clothing with tubes through which cold water was pumped prior to exercise. Eight male cyclists were asked to ride in summer-like heat after full-body precooling, upper-body precooling, lower-body precooling, and no precooling. Reuters Health summarized the results.

“Compared with the cooling-free ride…the cyclists had fewer signs of heat strain during their [three] post-cooling rides,” the news service reported. “Also, contrary to the researchers’ expectations, precooling the leg muscles did not diminish the athletes’ performance, despite the fact that it’s generally considered a bad idea to work ‘cold’ muscles.”

The concept behind precooling—which can also be performed using cold baths or chilled air—is that if the body is as cool as possible when exercise begins, athletes experience a higher heat tolerance and a lower heart rate. This can decrease their susceptibility to heat strain, especially in conditions of extreme heat and humidity.

The study, “Heat Strain and Gross Efficiency During Endurance Exercise after Lower, Upper, or Whole Body Precooling in the Heat,” appears in the May 2006 edition (Volume 27, Issue 5) of the International Journal of Sports Medicine. It can be downloaded for a fee at: www.thieme-connect.com/ejournals/toc/sportsmed/5149.

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