The Relation between Age and Sex on Whole-Body Heat Loss during Exercise-Heat Stress

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020 Oct;52(10):2242-2249. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002373.


Introduction: Increasing age is associated with decrements in sweat rate that compromise whole-body total heat loss (evaporative + dry heat exchange) in both men and women during moderate-to-vigorous exercise in dry heat. Similarly, young women also display reductions in sweating (that lower evaporative heat loss) relative to young men in such conditions. Nevertheless, it remained unclear whether these effects act synergistically to exacerbate the age-related decline in whole-body total heat loss in women relative to men. We therefore assessed the interrelation between age and sex on whole-body total heat loss during light, moderate, and vigorous exercise in dry heat.

Methods: To achieve this, we used direct and indirect calorimetry to assess whole-body total heat loss and metabolic heat production (respectively) in 46 men and 34 women age between 18 and 70 yr. Participants performed three, 30-min bouts of cycling at metabolic heat productions of 150 (light), 200 (moderate), and 250 (vigorous) W·m, each separated by 15-min recovery in dry heat (40°C, ~15% relative humidity).

Results: Whole-body total heat loss was ~5% lower in women relative to men during moderate and vigorous exercise (both, P < 0.01), irrespective of age. Total heat loss declined with age during moderate and vigorous exercise in both men and women (all, P < 0.050), although the rate of that decline (~4% per decade) was similar between men and women across all exercise bouts (all, P > 0.050).

Conclusions: We show that, when assessed in dry heat, whole-body total heat loss is lower in women relative to men, irrespective of age. Furthermore, total heat loss declines with increasing age in both men and women during moderate-to-vigorous exercise, albeit the rate of that decline is not appreciably modified by sex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Body Temperature Regulation*
  • Calorimetry
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heat Stress Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Young Adult

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