Exercise heat acclimation and post-exercise hot water immersion improve resting and exercise responses to heat stress in the elderly

Kirsty Waldock, Oliver Gibson, Rebecca Relf, Gregor Eichhorn, Mark Hayes, Peter Watt, Neil Maxwell

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Objectives: To investigate the efficacy of heat acclimation (HA) in the young (Y EX) and elderly (E EX) following exercise-HA, and the elderly utilising post-exercise hot water immersion HA (E HWI). Design: Cross-sectional study. Method: Twenty-six participants (Y EX: n = 11 aged 22 ± 2 years, E EX: n = 8 aged 68 ± 3 years, E HWI: n = 7 aged 73 ± 3 years) completed two pre-/post-tests, separated by five intervention days. Y EX and E EX exercised in hot conditions to raise rectal temperature (T rec) ≥38.5 °C within 60 min, with this increase maintained for a further 60 min. E HWI completed 30 min of cycling in temperate conditions, then 30 min of HWI (40 °C), followed by 30 min seated blanket wrap. Pre- and post-testing comprised 30 min rest, followed by 30 min of cycling exercise (3.5 W·kg −1prod), and a six-minute walk test (6MWT), all in 35 °C, 50% RH. Results: The HA protocols did not elicit different mean heart rate (HR), T rec, and duration T rec ≥ 38.5 °C (p > 0.05) between Y EX, E EX, and E HWI groups. Resting T rec, peak skin temperature, systolic and mean arterial pressure, perceived exertion and thermal sensation decreased, and 6MWT distance increased pre- to post-HA (p < 0.05), with no difference between groups. Y EX also demonstrated a reduction in resting HR (p < 0.05). No change was observed in peak T rec or HR, vascular conductance, sweat rate, or thermal comfort in any group (p > 0.05). Conclusions: Irrespective of age or intervention, HA induced thermoregulatory, perceptual and exercise performance improvements. Both exercise-HA (E EX), and post-exercise HWI (E HWI) are considered viable interventions to prepare the elderly for heat stress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)774-780
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2021


  • Aging
  • Climate change
  • Exercise
  • Heat adaptation
  • Heat illness
  • Thermoregulation


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