Interactive effects of age and hydration state on human thermoregulatory function during exercise in hot-dry conditions

Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2019 May;226(1):e13226. doi: 10.1111/apha.13226. Epub 2018 Dec 16.


Aim: Ageing and hypohydration independently attenuate heat dissipation during exercise; however, the interactive effects of these factors remain unclear. We assessed the hypothesis that ageing suppresses hypohydration-induced reductions in whole-body heat loss during exercise in the heat.

Methods: On two occasions, eight young (mean [SD]: 24 [4] years) and eight middle-aged (59 [5] years) men performed 30-minute bouts of light (heat production of 175 W m-2 ) and moderate (275 W m-2 ) cycling (separated by 15-minute rest) in the heat (40°C, 15% relative humidity) when euhydrated and hypohydrated (~4% reduction in body mass). Heat production and whole-body net heat exchange (evaporative heat loss + dry heat gain) were measured via indirect and direct calorimetry (respectively) and heat storage was calculated via their temporal summation.

Results: Net heat exchange was reduced, while heat storage was elevated, in the middle-aged men during moderate exercise when euhydrated (both P ≤ 0.01). In the young, evaporative heat loss was attenuated in the hypohydrated vs euhydrated condition during light (199 ± 6 vs 211 ± 10 W m-2 ; P ≤ 0.01) and moderate (287 ± 15 vs 307 ± 13 W m-2 ; P ≤ 0.01) exercise, but was similar in the middle-aged men, averaging 223 ± 6 and 299 ± 15 W m-2 , respectively, across conditions (both P ≥ 0.32). Heat storage was thereby exacerbated by hypohydration in the young (both P < 0.01) but not the middle-aged (both P ≥ 0.32) during both exercise bouts and, as a result, was similar between groups when hypohydrated (both P ≥ 0.50).

Conclusion: Hypohydration attenuates heat loss via sweating in young but not middle-aged men, indicating that ageing impairs one's ability to mitigate further sweat-induced fluid loss during hypohydration.

Keywords: ageing; dehydration; fluid regulation; heat stress; sweating; thermoregulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Heart Rate
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Humidity*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organism Hydration Status / physiology*
  • Young Adult