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Advantages of a smaller bodymass in humans when distance-running in warm, humid conditions

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Using a 65-kg athlete running a 2 h 10 min marathon as an example, we estimated that imbalances between approximately 1400 W of heat production and dissipation would occur in ambient temperatures of 17°C at 90% relative humidity (rh) to 37°C at 50% rh. Because heat production during running depends on body mass and heat loss depends on surface area, intercepts between predicted heat production and maximal heat loss with increasing speeds depend on an athlete's body mass. At 35°C and 60% rh, a 45-kg athlete could maintain thermal balance by running a 2 h 13 min marathon at 19.1 km · h−1 but a 75-kg athlete would only be able run a 3 h 28 min marathon at 12.2 km · h−1. In both cases, the production of 970–1020 W of heat would necessitate the evaporation of at least 1.5–1.6 l of sweat per hour. A lower metabolic heat production in lighter runners at any given speed may be one reason why smallness of stature is an asset in distance running.

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Accepted: 14 September 1998

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Dennis, S., Noakes, T. Advantages of a smaller bodymass in humans when distance-running in warm, humid conditions. Eur J Appl Physiol 79, 280–284 (1999).

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