How should top athletes acclimatise for heat?

Top athletes preparing to compete in a hot climate have to acclimatise in order to achieve their peak performance in hot climates. They currently do this by moving to the country ten to 14 days in advance or by training in a climate chamber.

This enables their bodies to perform at their peak in the climate. But these options aren’t available to everyone.

In recently published research, Prof Neil Walsh and his team at Bangor University’s School of Sport, Health & Exercise Sciences have shown that taking a hot bath after exercise in temperate conditions for six days can trigger changes in the body which mimic how the body adjusts to hot weather.

Neil Walsh reports:

“Our results showed that taking a hot bath after exercise in temperate conditions reduced both resting and exercising body temperature and improved running performance in the heat by 5%.”

Athletes often perform in the heat ─ but heat is the enemy of performance. The body sweats in order to cool down, but this puts extra strain on the cardiovascular system leading to fatigue and a decrease in performance.

He adds: “We recognise that this alternative heat acclimation strategy conflicts with current athlete practice, which includes taking an ice bath after exercise. We believe that, for athletes who compete in the heat, the new mantra should be ‘Train-Cool, Bathe-Hot’."

Although participants in the study bathed for up to 40 minutes in 40°C water after exercise the benefits may be gained by bathing for as little as 20 minutes.  The experts recommend this as a safe approach when adopting the new heat acclimation strategy.

For practical guidelines see

Publication date: 11 August 2016