Journal of Applied Physiology

Skinfolds and resting heat loss in cold air and water: temperature equivalence

R. M. Smith, J. M. Hanna


Fourteen male subjects with unweighted mean skinfolds (MSF) of 10.23 mm underwent several 3-h exposures to cold water and air of similar velocities in order to compare by indirect calorimetry the rate of heat loss in water and air. Measurements of heat loss (excluding the head) at each air temperature (Ta = 25, 20, 10 degrees C) and water temperature (Tw = 29–33 degrees C) were used in a linear approximation of overall heat transfer from body core (Tre) to air or water. We found the lower critical air and water temperatures to fall as a negative linear function of MSF. The slope of these lines was not significantly different in air and water with a mean of minus 0.237 degrees C/mm MSF. Overall heat conductance was 3.34 times greater in water. However, this value was not fixed but varied as an inverse curvilinear function of MSF. Thus, equivalent water-air temperatures also varied as a function of MSF. Between limits of 100–250% of resting heat loss the followingrelationships between MSF and equivalent water-air temperatures were found (see article).