Upper vs whole body cooling during exercise with thermal protective clothing in the heat

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Mansouri, Fatemeh
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Introduction: Firefighters operating in hot environments face challenges from protective garments that restrict heat dissipation, resulting in increased core temperature, thermal discomfort, and performance decline. Cooling vests represent a viable solution. The study aim was to compare effectiveness of the same amount of cooling power to the upper body (UB) or whole body (WB) in alleviating thermoregulatory and physiological stress, enhancing cognitive function, and reducing ratings of thermal discomfort and exertion, during 60 min of exercise in a hot environment (40°C, 40% relative humidity) while wearing firefighter turnout gear. Methods: Eight healthy individuals (27.5±3 y) participated in three conditions with either no cooling (Control) or active cooling with a liquid perfused shirt (UB cooling), or with a liquid perfused shirt and pants (WB cooling). In each trial, participants performed three sets of 15 min of stepping (20 steps/min) and 5 min of rest. Results: Both cooling strategies were beneficial compared to having no cooling at all. Participants could only complete two exercise bouts during Control, but they completed all three bouts with active cooling. WB cooling provided an advantage over UB cooling for core and skin temperature, and thermal comfort and sensation. The advantage in minimizing the increase in core temperature was only evident during the third exercise bout. Conclusion: Active cooling is advantageous under these conditions. WB cooling provided some benefits versus UB cooling during heavy intensity exercise; however, it is uncertain whether these benefits would be observed during light-to-moderate exercise, which more likely reflects an actual firefighting scenario.
heat illness, firefighter gear, cooling garments, thermoregulation, hot environment exercise.