Impairment of exercise performance following cold water immersion is not attenuated after 7 days of cold acclimation

Abstract

Purpose

It is well-documented that severe cold stress impairs exercise performance. Repeated immersion in cold water induces an insulative type of cold acclimation, wherein enhanced vasoconstriction leads to greater body heat retention, which may attenuate cold-induced exercise impairments. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to investigate changes in exercise performance during a 7-day insulative type of cold acclimation.

Methods

Twelve healthy participants consisting of eight males and four females (mean ± SD age: 25.6 ± 5.2 years, height: 174.0 ± 8.9 cm, weight: 75.6 ± 13.1 kg) performed a 20 min self-paced cycling test in 23 °C, 40% humidity without prior cold exposure. Twenty-four hours later they began a 7-day cold acclimation protocol (daily 90 min immersion in 10 °C water). On days one, four, and seven of cold acclimation, participants completed the same cycling test. Measurements of work completed, core and skin temperatures, heart rate, skin blood flow, perceived exertion, and thermal sensation were measured during each cycling test.

Results

Successful insulative cold acclimation was observed. Work produced during the baseline cycling test (220 ± 70 kJ) was greater (p < 0.001) than all three tests that were performed following immersions (195 ± 58, 197 ± 60, and 194 ± 62 kJ) despite similar ratings of perceived exertion during each test, suggesting that cold exposure impaired cycling performance. This impairment, however, was not attenuated over the cold acclimation period.

Conclusions

Results suggest that insulative cold acclimation does not attenuate impairments in exercise performance that were observed following acute cold water immersion.

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Abbreviations

ANOVA:

Analysis of variance

T core :

Core temperature

EMG:

Electromyography

SBFforearm :

Forearm skin blood flow

T forearm :

Forearm skin temperature

HR:

Heart rate

SS:

Shivering sensation

SBFtemporal :

Temporal skin blood flow

T temporal :

Temporal skin temperature

TS:

Thermal sensation

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Funding

This study was funded by the Department of Defense.

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Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

Douglas M. Jones is the lead author and has contributed to the research design, data collection, data analysis, and writing of this manuscript. Bart Roelands, Stephen Bailey, Michael Buono, and Romain Meeusen have contributed to the research design, data analysis, and review and edit process for this manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Douglas M. Jones.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Statement of human rights

This study was approved by the San Diego State University Institutional Review Board (protocol # 1951098).

Additional information

Communicated by Narihiko Kondo.

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Cite this article

Jones, D.M., Roelands, B., Bailey, S.P. et al. Impairment of exercise performance following cold water immersion is not attenuated after 7 days of cold acclimation. Eur J Appl Physiol 118, 1189–1197 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-018-3848-5

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Keywords

  • Cold
  • Exercise
  • Performance
  • Acclimation