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Thermal perception and lung function: a panel study in young adults with exercise under high outdoor temperature


It has been observed that high temperature exposure is associated with a reduction in lung function and some possible biological mechanisms have been suggested. However, it is unclear if thermal perception plays a role in the association. From September 3rd to 15th, 2018, in Guangzhou, China, we repeatedly measured daily thermal perception and lung function among 126 participants with outdoor military training. We performed a linear mixed model and stratified analyses by the origin of students, gender, and the training period to evaluate the effects of thermal perception on lung function. A total of 399 measurements were collected. Per vote increase in thermal sensation vote towards the “hot” direction was associated with a − 0.04 L (95% CI: − 0.08 to − 0.01) decrease in forced vital capacity (FVC), and − 0.04 L (95% CI: − 0.08 to − 0.01) decrease in forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1). Per grade increase towards the “very uncomfortable” direction for thermal comfort vote was associated with an increased percentage of forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1%) by 1.52% (95% CI: 0.18 to 2.86). For thermal preference, with preferred cooler vote increased by one level, FVC and FEV1 decreased by − 0.05 L/s (95% CI: − 0.08 to − 0.02) and − 0.05L/s (95% CI: − 0.08 to − 0.02), respectively. The effects of thermal perception on lung function were stronger among non-local and in the first week of training. Our study suggests that in the same high-temperature environment, thermal perception is associated with lung function, even in healthy adults.

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The authors thank the student volunteers who participated in this study.


This research was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (2018YFA0606200), the Guangzhou Basic and Applied Basic Research Foundation (No. 202102020408), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 42075178, No. 41905005), and the Guangdong Basic and Applied Basic Research Foundation (No. 2021A1515011947).

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Correspondence to Qiong Wang.

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This study was approved by the medical ethics committee of the School of Public Health, Sun Yat-sen University—project number 2018—No. 041. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Wang, H., Lam, C.K.C., Wulayin, M. et al. Thermal perception and lung function: a panel study in young adults with exercise under high outdoor temperature. Int J Biometeorol 67, 81–91 (2023).

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  • High temperature
  • Thermal perception
  • Lung function
  • Thermal sensation
  • Thermal comfort