Thermal responses of men and women during cold-water immersion: influence of exercise intensity

  • William D. McArdle
  • Michael M. Toner
  • John R. Magel
  • Robert J. Spinal
  • Kent B. Pandolf


The influence of exercise intensity on thermoregulation was studied in 8 men and 8 women volunteers during three levels of arm-leg exercise (level I: 700 ml oxygen (O2) · min−1; level II: 1250 ml O2 · min−1; level III: 1700 ml O2 · min−1 for 1 h in water at 20 and 28°C (Tw). For the men inTw 28°C the rectal temperature (Tre) fell 0.79°C (P<0.05) during immersion in both rest and level-I exercise. With level-II exercise a drop inTre of 0.54° C (P < 0.05) was noted, while at level-III exerciseTre did not change from the pre-immersion value. AtTw of 20°C,Tre fell throughout immersion with no significant difference in finalTre observed between rest and any exercise level. For the women at rest atTw 28°C,Tre fell 0.80°C (P<0.05) below the pre-immersion value. With the two more intense levels of exercise,Tre did not decrease during immersion. InTw 20°C, the women maintained higherTre (P<0.05) during level-II and level-III exercise compared to rest and exercise at level I. TheTre responses were related to changes in tissue insulation (It) between rest and exercise with the largest reductions inIt noted between rest and level-I exercise acrossTw and gender. For men and women of similar percentage body fat, decreases inTre were greater for the women at rest and level-I exercise inTw 20°C (P< 0.05). With more intense exercise, the women maintained a higherTre than the men, especially in the colder water. These findings indicate that exercise is not always effective in offsetting the decrease inIt and facilitated heat loss in cool or cold water compared to rest. The factors of exercise intensity,TW, body fat, and gender influence the thermoregulatory responses.

Key words

Thermoregulation Cold Rest Gender Exercise 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • William D. McArdle
    • 1
  • Michael M. Toner
    • 1
  • John R. Magel
    • 1
  • Robert J. Spinal
    • 1
  • Kent B. Pandolf
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratory of Applied Physiology, Department of Health and Physical EducationQueens College of the City University of New YorkFlushingUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental MedicineNatickUSA

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