Turning up the heat might be the best thing for athletes competing in cool weather, according to a new study by human physiology researchers at the University of Oregon.
Published in the October issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology, the paper examined the impact of heat acclimation to improve athletic performance in hot and cool environments.
Researchers conducted exercise tests on 12 highly trained cyclists -- 10 males and two females -- before and after a 10-day heat acclimation program. Participants underwent physiological and performance tests under both hot and cool conditions. A separate control group of eight highly trained cyclists underwent testing and followed the same exercise regime in a cool environment.
The data concluded that heat acclimation exposure provided considerable ergogenic benefits in cool conditions, in addition to the expected performance benefits in the hot environment. The study is the first to evaluate impacts of heat acclimation on aerobic performance in cool conditions.
"Our findings could have significant impacts in the competitive sports world," said Santiago Lorenzo, a researcher who performed the work as part of his dissertation at the University of Oregon. He is now completing post-doctoral training in the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center) at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.
The study found performance increases of approximately 7 percent after 10 heat acclimation exposures. "In terms of competitive cycling, 7 percent is a really big increase and could mean that cyclists could use this approach to improve their performance in cooler weather conditions," said Lorenzo. However, the heat exposures must be in addition to the athletes' normal training regimen.
Heat acclimation improves the body's ability to control body temperature, improves sweating and increases blood flow through t
|Contact: Jim Barlow|
University of Oregon