Objective: The purpose of this review is to evaluate the currently-available literature regarding the impact of both primary aging and age-related fitness on thermoregulatory function during exercise in the heat. In so doing, we aim to (1) characterize the influence of fitness in mitigating age-related declines in thermoregulation, (2) address the limitations of prior experimental approaches for investigating age-related thermoregulatory impairments, (3) examine to what extent aerobic fitness can be maintained in the aging athlete, and (4) begin to address the specific environmental conditions in which age-related impairments in thermoregulatory function may place highly active older adults at increased risk for heat-related illness and injury and/or limited performance. Design: Mini-review. Methods: Review and synthesis of available information. Results: The earth's climate is warming, accompanied by a consequently greater frequency and severity of extreme heat events. At the same time, lifespan is increasing and people of all ages are staying increasingly active. Age-related impairments in thermoregulatory function are well-documented, leading to increased heat-related health risks and reduced exercise/athletic performance for older adults in hot environmental conditions. High aerobic fitness improves body temperature regulation during exercise via augmented sweating and improved cardiovascular function, including cardiac output and skin blood flow, in humans of all ages. Conclusions: The masters athlete is better suited for exercise/heat-stress compared to his or her less fit peers. However, while age and thermoregulation in general has been studied extensively, research on the most fit older adults, including highly competitive athletes, is generally lacking.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation