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Experimental Physiology - 2022 - Jenkins - Delineating the impacts of air temperature and humidity for endurance exercise.pdf (513.19 kB)

Delineating the impacts of air temperature and humidity for endurance exercise

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posted on 2023-01-16, 16:59 authored by Elliott J. Jenkins, Holly A. Campbell, Jason K. W. Lee, Toby Mündel, James D. Cotter

 Many studies have reported that ambient heat stress increases physiological and perceptual strain and impairs endurance exercise, but effects of air temperature per se remain almost unexamined. Most studies have used matched relative humidity, thereby exponentially increasing absolute humidity (water content in air) concurrently with temperature. Absolute (not relative) humidity governs evaporative rate and is more important at higher work rates and air temperatures. Therefore, we examined the independent effects of air temperature and humidity on performance, thermal, cardiovascular and perceptual measures during endurance exercise. Utilizing a crossover design, 14 trained participants (7 females) completed 45 min fixed-intensity cycling (70% ◂◽.▸) followed by a 20-km time trial in each of four environments: three air temperatures at matched absolute humidity (Cool, 18°C; Moderate, 27°C; and Hot, 36°C; at 1.96 kPa, air velocity ∼4.5 m/s), and one at elevated humidity (Hot Humid, 36°C at 3.92 kPa). Warmer air caused warmer skin (0.5°C/°C; P < 0.001), higher heart rate (1 bpm/°C; P < 0.001), sweat rate (0.04 l/h/°C; P < 0.001) and thermal perceptions during fixed-intensity exercise, but minimally affected core temperature (<0.01°C/°C; P = 0.053). Time-trial performance was comparable between Cool and Moderate (95% CI: –1.4, 5.9%; P = 0.263), but 3.6–6% slower in Hot (95% CI: ±2.4%; P ≤ 0.006). Elevated humidity increased core temperature (P < 0.001), perceived temperature and discomfort but not skin temperature or heart rate, and reduced mean blood pressure (P = 0.046) during fixed-intensity exercise. Elevated humidity impaired time-trial performance by 3.4% (95% CI: ±2.2%; P = 0.006). In conclusion, these findings quantify the importance of absolute humidity alongside air temperature when exercising under severe heat stress. 


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Experimental Physiology




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Jenkins, E. J., Campbell, H. A., Lee, J. K., Mündel, T., & Cotter, J. D. (2022) 'Delineating the impacts of air temperature and humidity for endurance exercise', Experimental Physiology. DOI: 10.1113/EP090969

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Cardiff Met Affiliation

  • Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences

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Elliott Jenkins

Cardiff Met Research Centre/Group

  • Cardiovascular Physiology

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