Thermoregulatory burden of elite sailing athletes during exercise in the heat: A pilot study

Michelle van Delden, Coen C.W.G. Bongers, Douwe Broekens, Hein A.M. Daanen, Thijs M.H. Eijsvogels*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Exercising in a hot and humid environment increases core body temperature, which may limit exercise performance. The risk of exercise-induced hyperthermia and associated performance decrement in Olympic sailing athletes is largely unknown. Therefore, this study aimed to compare thermoregulatory responses and performance indicators of elite sailors in a cool versus hot and humid environment. Seven elite athletes from four different Olympic sailing classes (Laser, RS:X, Finn, 470) performed cycling and/or rowing exercise in a cool (18°C) and hot (33°C) environment, while core body temperature (TC), skin temperature (TSK), exercise performance (covered distance), and rating of perceived exertion were measured continuously. TC increased significantly more in the hot environment (37.6 ± 0.2°C to 39.1 ± 0.1°C) compared to the cool environment (37.5 ± 0.1°C to 38.5 ± 0.2°C; p = 0.002), but the increase in TC between conditions differed substantially within individuals (range: 0.3°C–0.9°C). Exercise performance decreased by 6.2 ± 2.9% in the hot environment (p = 0.013, range: 2.3%–9.5%), but more importantly, exercise performance was strongly inversely related to peak TC (R = −0.78, p = 0.039). Rating of perceived exertion (cool: 14.2 ± 0.6; hot: 13.9 ± 1.2) and increase in TSK (cool: 0.5 ± 1.0°C; hot: 0.9 ± 0.3°C) did not differ between conditions (p = 0.59 and p = 0.36, respectively). To conclude, a larger increase in TC and substantial exercise performance decrement were observed in the hot versus cool environment. As a further matter, large inter-individual differences were observed across athletes with an inverse relationship between TC and exercise performance, which stresses the importance of appropriate and personalized interventions to reduce thermoregulatory burden of elite sailors during exercise in the heat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-76
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019


The authors want to thank the athletes for their participation and national coach Jaap Zielhuis for his endorsement. Furthermore, we want to thank Cees van Bladel and Lenneke de Voogd for the availability of the facilities at Sailing Innovation Centre and Giorgos Charalampopoulos for his involvement in developing the class-specific protocols. This study was supported by a Sportinnovator grant (ZonMW, 2015). The work of T.M.H.E was supported by a European Commission Horizon 2020 grant (Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship 655502).

FundersFunder number
European Commission Horizon 2020
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme
Horizon 2020655502


    • athletic performance
    • core body temperature
    • hot ambient temperature
    • Laser
    • RS:X
    • thermoregulation


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