Increased Air Velocity Reduces Thermal and Cardiovascular Strain in Young and Older Males during Humid Exertional Heat Stress

J Occup Environ Hyg. 2015;12(9):625-34. doi: 10.1080/15459624.2015.1029613.


Older adults have been reported to have a lower evaporative heat loss capacity than younger adults during exercise when full sweat evaporation is permitted. However, it is unclear how conditions of restricted evaporative and convective heat loss (i.e., high humidity, clothing insulation) alter heat stress. to the purpose of this study was to examine the heat stress responses of young and older males during and following exercise in a warm/humid environment under two different levels of air velocity. Ten young (YOUNG: 24±2 yr) and 10 older (OLDER: 59±3 yr) males, matched for body surface area performed 4×15-min cycling bouts (15-min rest) at a fixed rate of heat production (400 W) in warm/humid conditions (35°C, 60% relative humidity) under 0.5 (Low) and 3.0 (High) m·s(-1) air velocity while wearing work coveralls. Rectal (Tre) and mean skin (MTsk) temperatures, heart rate (HR), local sweat rate, % max skin blood flow (SkBF) (recovery only), and blood pressure (recovery only) were measured. High air velocity reduced core and skin temperatures (p < 0.05) equally in YOUNG and OLDER males (p > 0.05) but was more effective in reducing cardiovascular strain (absolute and % max HR; p < 0.05) in YOUNG males (p < 0.05). Greater increases in local dry heat loss responses (% max SkBF and cutaneous vascular conductance) were detected across time in OLDER than YOUNG males in both conditions (p < 0.05). Local dry heat loss responses and cardiovascular strain were attenuated during the High condition in YOUNG compared to OLDER (p < 0.05). High air velocity reduced the number of males surpassing the 38.0°C Tre threshold from 90% (Low) to 50% (High). Despite age-related local heat loss differences, YOUNG and OLDER males had similar levels of heat stress during intermittent exercise in warm and humid conditions while wearing work coveralls. Increased air velocity was effective in reducing heat stress equally, and cardiovascular strain to a greater extent, in YOUNG and OLDER males, and may be useful for mitigating heat stress in all workers.

Keywords: aging; clothing; core temperature; heat stress; warm and humid conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Air Movements
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Body Temperature
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Clothing
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Heart Rate*
  • Heat Stress Disorders / physiopathology
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Humidity*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin / blood supply
  • Skin Temperature
  • Sweating