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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2001 Sep;91(3):1055-60.

Hyperthermia and central fatigue during prolonged exercise in humans.

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Department of Human Physiology, Institute of Exercise and Sport Sciences, University of Copenhagen, DK-2200 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark.


The present study investigated the effects of hyperthermia on the contributions of central and peripheral factors to the development of neuromuscular fatigue. Fourteen men exercised at 60% maximal oxygen consumption on a cycle ergometer in hot (40 degrees C; hyperthermia) and thermoneutral (18 degrees C; control) environments. In hyperthermia, the core temperature increased throughout the exercise period and reached a peak value of 40.0 +/- 0.1 degrees C (mean +/- SE) at exhaustion after 50 +/- 3 min of exercise. In control, core temperature stabilized at approximately 38.0 +/- 0.1 degrees C, and exercise was maintained for 1 h without exhausting the subjects. Immediately after the cycle trials, subjects performed 2 min of sustained maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) either with the exercised legs (knee extension) or with a "nonexercised" muscle group (handgrip). The degree of voluntary activation during sustained maximal knee extensions was assessed by superimposing electrical stimulation (EL) to nervus femoralis. Voluntary knee extensor force was similar during the first 5 s of contraction in hyperthermia and control. Thereafter, force declined in both trials, but the reduction in maximal voluntary force was more pronounced in the hyperthermic trial, and, from 30 to 120 s, the force was significantly lower in hyperthermia compared with control. Calculation of the voluntary activation percentage (MVC/MVC + EL) revealed that the degree of central activation was significantly lower in hyperthermia (54 +/- 7%) compared with control (82 +/- 6%). In contrast, total force of the knee extensors (MVC + force from EL) was not different in the two trials. Force development during handgrip contraction followed the same pattern of response as was observed for the knee extensors. In conclusion, these data demonstrate that the ability to generate force during a prolonged MVC is attenuated with hyperthermia, and the impaired performance is associated with a reduction in the voluntary activation percentage.

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