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Aging and Heat & Cold Tolerance

Body changes with age that affect ability to get rid of heat when the weather is hot (sweating & evaporation are the main ways the body gets rid of excess heat)

1. It takes longer for older adults to start sweating, and they lose less heat with sweating (lower sweat rate) than younger adults.

2. Older adults produce less sweat per gland

3. As skin ages, sweat gland function declines peripherally (forehead and limbs) first, then in the trunk later

4. Individuals with a small body need to sweat more during exercise to expel the same amount of heat

5. To expel body heat, the body has to increase blood flow to the skin. Aging reduces this blood flow to the skin, which can make it difficult for an older adult to dissipate heat.

Body changes with age that affect tolerance to cold

1. Loss of muscle mass that occurs with aging reduces ability to constrict blood vessels in the skin and keep heat in the body when it is cold.

What to do:

1. In older people, sweat gland output is better in those who are more fit. Exercise is important to

Improve heat & cold tolerance

2. Aerobic exercise is thought to improve the function of sweat glands

3. Aging delays the ability to feel thirsty. To avoid dehydration, older adults need to drink water throughout the day, not just at meal-time and when they feel thirsty.

4. Exercising in air conditioned building is important in hot weather


1. Balmain, B.N., Sabapathy, S., Louis, M., and Morris, N.R. (2018). Aging and Thermoregulatory Control: The Clinical Implications of Exercising under Heat Stress in Older Individuals. Hindawi Biomedical Research International.

2. Kenney, W.L., and Munce. T.A. (2003). Physiology of aging invited review: Aging and human temperature regulation. Journal of Applied Physiology. 95: 2598-2603.

3. Kenney, W.L., Wolf, S.T., Dillon, G.A., Berry, C.W., and Alexander, L.M. (2021). Temperature regulation during exercise in the heat: Insights for the aging athlete. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 24:739-746.

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