Introduction: Aging is associated with a reduction in the body's capacity to dissipate heat. To date, few studies have examined age-related changes in thermoregulatory function during short exercise periods in the heat in older females.
Purpose: This study aimed to investigate the effects of age on whole-body heat loss during intermittent exercise in the heat in young and older females.
Methods: Direct and indirect calorimetry was used to measure whole-body evaporative heat loss (EHL), change in body heat content, and metabolic heat production. Eleven young (Y) (mean ± SD age = 24 ± 4 yr) and 13 older (O) (51 ± 8 yr) females matched for body surface area (Y, 1.72 ± 0.15; O, 1.75 ± 0.12 m²) and fitness (V(˙)O(2max)) (Y, 36.7 ± 6.8 mL O₂·kg⁻¹·min⁻¹; O, 33.8 ± 8.0 mL O₂·kg⁻¹·min⁻¹) performed four bouts of 15-min cycling (Ex1, Ex2, Ex3, and Ex4) at a constant rate of heat production (300 W) at 35°C and 20% relative humidity. Each exercise bout was separated by 15 min of rest.
Results: EHL was reduced in O compared with Y during Ex1 (O, 199 ± 6 W; Y, 240 ± 9 W; P = 0.001), Ex2 (O, 238 ± 4 W; Y, 261 ± 9 W, P = 0.023), and Ex3 (O, 249 ± 4 W; Y, 274 ± 11 W; P = 0.040). EHL was not different between groups during Ex4 or during the recovery periods. Older females had a greater change in body heat content compared with young females (O, 270 ± 20 kJ; Y, 166 ± 20 kJ; P = 0.001).
Conclusion: These findings suggest that older females have a lower capacity for whole-body EHL compared with younger females during short intermittent exercise in the heat performed at a fixed rate of metabolic heat production.