Heat Balance Precedes Stabilization of Body Temperatures During Cold Water Immersion


  1. Tikuisis, P.
Corporate Authors
Defence R&D Canada - Toronto, Toronto ONT (CAN)
Certain previous studies suggest that heat balance (i.e., when the rate of heat loss is matched by heat production) might be attained before the stabilization of body temperatures during cold exposure. The present study was undertaken to examine this phenomenon and explain, through a theoretical analysis, the distribution of heat within the body. Six healthy and fit males (mean ± SD of age = 37.5 ± 6.5 yr, height = 1.79 ± 0.07 m, mass = 81.8 ± 9.5 kg, body fat = 17.3 ± 4.2%, VO2max = 46.9 ± 5.5 L×min-1) were immersed in water ranging from 16.4 to 24.1°C, depending on body fatness, for periods ranging from 4 to 10 h. Core temperature underwent an insignificant transient rise during the first hour of immersion, then proceeded to decline steadily for several hours, although no subject reached a value of 35°C. Despite the continued decrease in core temperature, shivering reached a steady state of approximately 2 x resting metabolism after 1 h of immersion. Heat debt peaked at 932 ± 334 kJ after 2 h of immersion and unexpectedly proceeded to decline at about 48 kJ×h-1 indicating a recovery of mean body temperature. This reversal is explained by a rise in the temperature of the mid region of the body not represented by the core and shell. The analysis of heat balance indicated a maximum decrease in the mid region temperature of 3.7 ± 1.1°C corresponding to the peak heat debt. The reversal in heat debt and resultant increase in mid body temperature might help explain wh

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Cold water immersion;Energy metabolism;Heat balance;Heat production;Body cooling;Heat debt
Report Number
DRDC-TORONTO-SL-2003-001 — Scientific Literature
Date of publication
01 Jan 2003
Number of Pages
Reprinted from
J App. Physiol, Vol 95, 2003, p 89-96
Electronic Document(PDF);CD ROM

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