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Seasonal variation in physiological responses to mild cold air in young and older men

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Eight men aged 60–65 years and six men aged 20–25 years, wearing only swimming trunks, were exposed to an air temperature of 17° C and 45% R.H. in each of the four seasons. The increase in the rate of metabolic heat production\(\left( {\% \Delta \dot M} \right)\) for the older group in the cold test was significantly higher in summer and autumn than in winter and spring (P<0.05), but did not differ in the young group between seasons. Compared to the young group the\(\% \Delta \dot M\) was significantly greater for the older group (due to a marked increase in four individuals) in summer and autumn (P<0.04). At the end of the period of cold exposure, the decrements of rectal temperature (ΔT re), mean skin temperature (\(\bar T_{sk} \); due to a marked decrease in four individuals) and foot skin temperature (T foot) were significantly greater for the older group compared to the young group at all times of the year (P<0.003). Seasonal variations in the two groups were similar, e.g., theΔTre gradually became smaller from summer to winter (P<0.05) and then increased slightly in the spring (P=0.07).T foot for both groups decreased from summer to autumn (P<0.01) and remained unchanged subsequently. No seasonal variations were observed for\(\bar T_{sk} \) in either group. The increase in diastolic blood pressure (BPd) during the test was significantly smaller in winter in both groups (P<0.05). BPd became larger again during spring in the older group (P<0.01), but remained low in the young group. The BPd was significantly greater for the older group than the young group in winter and spring (P<0.05). Compared to young men these results suggest that older men may lose the tolerance acquired by earlier cold acclimatization as seen by the BPd responses, and have a somewhat lower thermoregulatory capability in coping with mild cold air in all seasons.

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Inoue, Y., Nakao, M., Ueda, H. et al. Seasonal variation in physiological responses to mild cold air in young and older men. Int J Biometeorol 38, 131–136 (1995).

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