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Suffer the Heat? Or Splash on some Water?

Aug 20th, 2012
Staff Writer

Man jumps into water.Summer time for the northern hemisphere means hot days one after another. This year, the month of June was witness to over 170 record temperatures in the United States, breaking recrds that were set in the typically warmer months of July and August, according to NASA Science. With such a surge of searing sunny days, athletes everywhere employ new strategies, or suffer sweaty consequences.

For those training outdoors, a popular remedy to warmer conditions consists of dousing the face and body with cool water. It’s a shock to the body, but athletes everywhere preach there is a positive effect. This prompted doctors in the Exercise Physiology Lab at California State University, Fullerton, to produce a new piece of research, published August 3rd on, that investigates the effects of internal and external hydration.

The team, led by Dr. Colleen Munoz of the University of Connecticut, recruited ten competing college runners for testing in the lab. The athletes walked for 90 minutes, followed by a 5-km time trial run in a 94 degree room at 30% humidity. They were either provided oral hydration, external hydration, both, or neither. The scientists measured the subject’s temperature, heart rate, thirst, and their subjective thermal sensation and rating of perceived exertion.

The results were surprising. Although athletes felt cooler and less exhausted after external cooling, performance during the high-intensity 5-k was uninfluenced by the application of water externally to the body. Consuming water internally reduced heart rate and thirst during the 90-minute walk, but interestingly had no positive effect on the execution of the five kilometer run.

Heat is the number one weather-related cause of death in the United States, and in 2003 during the record heat wave in Europe, an estimated 50,000 people lost their lives due to heat-related illness, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For people everywhere, hydration is essential to optimize health and fitness. A splash of water across the cheeks or chest can improve a person’s perception of performance, but after it all, the strength to endure exists within.