Sex Differences in Thermal Comfort, Perception, Feeling, Stress and Focus During Exercise Hyperthermia

Lauren Schoech, Kyleigh Allie, Paolo Salvador, Mauricio Martinez, Eric Rivas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


It is unclear whether men and women perceive thermal stress differently when changes in intestinal temperature (ΔTin) and metabolic heat production (MHprod) are matched between sexes during exercise hyperthermia. This study tested the hypothesis that females have enhanced sensitivity to comfort and perception of thermal stress during exercise hyperthermia in these conditions. We had 22 healthy active adults (11 males, 11 females; M age = 22.4 years, SD = 4.9; M height = 169 cm, SD = 7.6; M weight = 68.3 kg, SD = 13) exercise in random order, separated by at least three days at similar MHprod (M = 7.0 W/kg, SD = 1.5; p = 0.32) for 60 minutes on a cycle ergometer in cool (M = 24.00C, SD = 0.0; M = 14.4%Rh, SD = 3.6) and hot (M = 42.3°C, SD = 0.2; M = 10-60%Rh) environments with a progressive increase in humidity conditions. We measured ΔTin, and thermal stress indices for sensation (TS), comfort (TC), pleasantness (TP), and stickiness (S), feeling (FS scale), stress (visual analogue stress scale, VAS), focus (F) and felt arousal (FAS scale). We examined environmental conditions as wet bulb globe temperatures (WBGT). Males and females had similar increases in ΔTin (ME: WBGT; p < 0.0001), and both groups reported increased TS and TC and decreased TP (ME: WBGT, p ≤ 0.01). However, females reported that TS, TC, and TP, felt hotter overall, more uncomfortable, and more unpleasant, compared to males (ME: Sex; p < 0.04). Overall, females felt worse and were more stressed compared to males (ME: Sex; p ≤ 0.05). Females also reported greater internal focus as WBGT increased compared to males (I: WBGT × Sex; p < 0.003). Knowing that females perceive thermal stress during exercise hyperthermia to be hotter, more uncomfortable, more unpleasant, and more stressful compared to males can help coaches/trainers plan different exercise routines for exercisers of both sexes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-987
Number of pages19
JournalPerceptual and Motor Skills
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • behavioral thermoregulation
  • exercise hyperthermia
  • heat strain
  • thermal stress


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