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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2000 Oct;89(4):1403-11.

Comparison of thermoregulatory responses between men and women immersed in cold water.

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Human Performance and Protection, Defence and Civil Institute of Environmental Medicine, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M3M 3B9.


Eleven women (age = 24.4 +/- 6.3 yr, mass = 65.0 +/- 7.8 kg, height = 167 +/- 8 cm, body fatness = 22.4 +/- 5.9%, mean +/- SD) were immersed to neck level in 18 degrees C water for up to 90 min for comparison of their thermal responses with those of men (n = 14) in a previous similarly conducted protocol. Metabolic rate increased about three times resting levels in men and women, whereas the rate of rectal temperature cooling (DeltaT(re)/Deltat) in women (0.47 degrees C/h) was about one-half that in men. With use of all data, DeltaT(re)/Deltat correlates with the ratio of body surface area to size and the metabolic rate of shivering correlates inversely to the square root of body fatness. No significant gender differences in total metabolic heat production normalized for body mass or surface area were found among subjects who completed 90 min of immersion (9 women and 7 men). Nor was there a gender difference in the overall percent contribution ( approximately 60%) of fat oxidation to total heat production. Blood concentrations of free fatty acids, glycerol, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and lactate increased significantly during the 90-min immersion, whereas muscle glycogen sampled from the right quadriceps femoris vastus lateralis decreased (free fatty acids, glycerol, and beta-hydroxybutyrate were higher in women). When the subjects were subgrouped according to similar body fatness and 60 min of immersion (6 women and 5 men), no significant gender differences emerged in DeltaT(re)/Deltat, energy metabolism, and percent fat oxidation. These findings suggest that no gender adjustments are necessary for prediction models of cold response if body fatness and the ratio of body surface area to size are taken into account and that a potential gender advantage with regard to carbohydrate sparing during cold water immersion is not supported.

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