Over the past few weeks, Dr Ash Willmott and PhD students Rebecca Relf and Kirsty Waldock, have helped the MSc Applied Sport Physiology and MSc Applied Exercise Physiology students investigate the sudomotor responses while exercising in a hot, humid environment (35⁰C, 60% relative humidity), replicating expected conditions for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Led by Ash and his current research theme of investigating alternate methods of heat acclimation outside of the traditional lab-based environmental chamber protocols, the students also assessed the efficacy of wearing a sauna suit during exercise in temperate conditions (20⁰C, 40% relative humidity).

The rationale of their lab sessions has come from research led by Professor George Havenith from the Environmental Ergonomics Research Centre at Loughborough University (Smith, C. J., & Havenith, G. 2012. Body mapping of sweating patterns in athletes: a sex comparison, MSSE [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22811031]) which compared gross sweat loss and regional sweat rate patterns between males and females using a body mapping approach. The lab sessions were conducted with the help from his PhD student Nicole Coull and her recent work presented at the International Conference of Environmental Ergonomics (ICEE) in 2017 (Coull, N., West, A., Wheeler, P., Hodder, S. & Havenith, G. 2017. Regional Sweat Distribution in Young and Older Individuals. ICEE 2017 Kobe, Japan [http://www.environmental-ergonomics.org/]).

The MSc students have learnt new lab techniques in relation to mapping local sweat rate patterns and have produced simplified sweat maps detailing the differences between sex and intervention protocols, an example of this can be seen below.

The sweat mapping technique involves applying highly absorbent material to the skin at various body regions to collect a sweat sample. The technical absorbent material was weighed pre and post application to calculate the amount of sweat at each of the 13 body regions tested. The students observed a similar regional sweat rate pattern as the previous work, with highest sweat rates being observed at the forehead and back regions.

Furthermore, the students improved their lab skills by incorporating measures of sweat composition and also used FLIR thermal imagery to assess variation in skin temperature, pre- to post-exercise.Whilst this was part of their MSc module and learning experience, it was a fantastic opportunity for the students to think about novel heat acclimation methods whilst measuring sudomotor function. Additionally, they considered the application of environmental physiology while preparing athletes for sporting events in thermally challenging conditions and how research has informed sportswear designers to improve heat loss capacity within their clothing range.

We would like to thank those at the Loughborough Design School (http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/design-school/research/environmental-ergonomics/) for their assistance with the sweat mapping procedure used during the lab practicals.

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