Journal of Applied Physiology

Thermoregulation during rest and exercise in the cold in pre- and early pubescent boys and in young men

J. Smolander, O. Bar-Or, O. Korhonen, J. Ilmarinen


Eight minimally dressed pre- and early pubescent boys (age 11–12 yr) and 11 young adult men (age 19–34 yr) rested for 20 min and exercised on a cycle ergometer for 40 min at approximately 30% of their maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max) at 5 degrees C. To quantify the added increase in metabolic rate because of cold, a separate test was carried out at 21 degrees C at rest and at equal work rates as in the cold. Both groups were similar in subcutaneous fat thickness and VO2max per kilogram body weight. Rectal temperature increased slightly during the exposure to the cold, but no significant difference was observed between the boys and men. In the cold, the boys had lower skin temperatures than the adults in their extremities but not in the trunk. The boys increased their metabolic rates in the cold more than did the men. As a result, the boys maintained their core temperature as effectively as the adults. Similar age-related differences in thermoregulatory responses to cold were observed when two boys and two men with equal body sizes were compared. Our results suggest that there may be maturation-related differences in thermoregulation in the cold between children and adults.