Cold Hands - More exercise

A recent study from Stanford University's School of Medicine looked at exercise and heat stress in obese women.  Fat is a great insulator and for people who are obese, when they exercise, they often get too hot. This can put them off exercising, and lead them to abandon the exercise program due to overheating, fatigue and feeling uncomfortable.

Photo by dfinnecy
The study looked at 24 healthy women, aged between 30 and 45 who had not exercised long-term in the past.  They were obese with a BMI of between 30 and 35.  The women were assigned to one of two groups: one group (the test group) held a cooling device in their palms during exercise which had cold water in it and the other group (the control group) held a "dummy" cooling device with body temperature water in it.

Both groups participated in 3 exercise sessions of 35-55 minutes a week for 12 weeks holding the device. On the first and last day, all women did a timed 1.5 mile walk on a treadmill.

The group holding the cooling device with cold water in reduced their 1.5 mile treadmill test time by more than 5 minutes, averaging 31.6 minutes on day 1 and 24.6 minutes at the end of the study.  This group also lost more than 2 inches off their waist by the end of the study and their blood pressure was reduced from 139/84 to 124/70.

In contrast the  control group who had a dummy cooling device with body temperature water in it, didn't show any substantial differences in any of their measurements.  In fact, the controls tended to drop out early and skipped a lot of sessions.


By reducing heat stress, fatigue, sweating and discomfort were all reduced, which are frequently barriers that make want people want to stop exercising.

An easy way to utilize this effect is to carry a bottle of frozen water with you as you walk or exercise.  As the water melts, you can drink the water, but at the same time, it keeps your palms cool and can improve the comfort feeling of exercise, and make you keep with the program longer.  Further studies are needed to explore this effect further - including how this impacts people in colder weather...but it seems like a good place to start to make your workout more comfortable and help you stick with the program.

So as the weather is getting hotter, don't let that put you off your exercise program - just grab a bottle of iced water and see how it keeps you going.

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