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Restoration Of Thermoregulation After Exercise

Glen P. Kenny, Ryan McGinn

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Performing exercise, especially in hot conditions, can heat the body, causing significant increases in internal body temperature. To offset this increase, powerful and highly developed autonomic thermoregulatory responses (i.e., skin blood flow and sweating) are activated to enhance whole body heat loss; a response mediated by temperature-sensitive receptors in both the skin and the internal core regions of the body. Independent of thermal control of heat loss, nonthermal factors can have profound consequences on the body’s ability to dissipate heat during exercise. These include the activation of the body’s sensory receptors (i.e., baroreceptors, metaboreceptors, mechanoreceptors, etc.) as well as phenotypic factors such as age, sex, acclimation, fitness, and chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes). The influence of these factors extends into recovery such that marked impairments in thermoregulatory function occur, leading to prolonged and sustained elevations in body core temperature. Irrespective of the level of hyperthermia, there is a time-dependent suppression of the body’s physiological ability to dissipate heat. This delay in the restoration of postexercise thermoregulation has been associated with disturbances in cardiovascular function which manifest most commonly as postexercise hypotension. This review examines the current knowledge regarding the restoration of thermoregulation postexercise. In addition, the factors that are thought to accelerate or delay the return of body core temperature to resting levels are highlighted with a particular emphasis on strategies to manage heat stress in athletic and/or occupational settings.