The evaporative requirement for heat balance determines whole-body sweat rate during exercise under conditions permitting full evaporation

J Physiol. 2013 Jun 1;591(11):2925-35. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.248823. Epub 2013 Mar 4.


Although the requirements for heat dissipation during exercise are determined by the necessity for heat balance, few studies have considered them when examining sweat production and its potential modulators. Rather, the majority of studies have used an experimental protocol based on a fixed percentage of maximum oxygen uptake (% ). Using multiple regression analysis, we examined the independent contribution of the evaporative requirement for heat balance (Ereq) and % to whole-body sweat rate (WBSR) during exercise. We hypothesised that WBSR would be determined by Ereq and not by % . A total of 23 males performed two separate experiments during which they exercised for 90 min at different rates of metabolic heat production (200, 350, 500 W) at a fixed air temperature (30°C, n = 8), or at a fixed rate of metabolic heat production (290 W) at different air temperatures (30, 35, 40°C, n = 15 and 45°C, n = 7). Whole-body evaporative heat loss was measured by direct calorimetry and used to calculate absolute WBSR in grams per minute. The conditions employed resulted in a wide range of Ereq (131-487 W) and % (15-55%). The individual variation in non-steady-state (0-30 min) and steady-state (30-90 min) WBSR correlated significantly with Ereq (P < 0.001). In contrast, % correlated negatively with the residual variation in WBSR not explained by Ereq, and marginally increased (∼2%) the amount of total variability in WBSR described by Ereq alone (non-steady state: R(2) = 0.885; steady state: R(2) = 0.930). These data provide clear evidence that absolute WBSR during exercise is determined by Ereq, not by % . Future studies should therefore use an experimental protocol which ensures a fixed Ereq when examining absolute WBSR between individuals, irrespective of potential differences in relative exercise intensity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Humidity*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Steam
  • Sweating / physiology*
  • Temperature*
  • Thermogenesis / physiology*


  • Steam