In vitro and animal studies indicate that the response to heat stress is associated with beneficial adaptations that promote cell health and survival. Few studies to date have examined this finding in human subjects, and it is unclear how the adaptation compares in magnitude to exercise training. PURPOSE: To investigate the skeletal muscle adaptations (namely mitochondrial biogenesis and capillarization) of 6 weeks of deep-muscle heat treatment relative to exercise training. We hypothesized that heat treatment (HT), applied through pulsed shortwave diathermy (2 hr, 3 days/week) over a 6-week intervention period would lead to increased mitochondrial content and capillarity within skeletal muscle, though to a lesser extent than single-leg knee extension exercise training (EX; 40 min, 3 days/week). METHODS: We randomized 28 sedentary but otherwise healthy, young adults (ages 18–36; n = 13 female, n = 15 male) to receive either HT, EX, or sham heating sessions (CON; 2 hr, 3 days/week) over 6 weeks. Diathermy increased muscle temperature by 3.2 ± 0.33 °C (P < 0.0001) within 20 minutes. Muscle biopsies were taken from the vastus lateralis at baseline, after 3 weeks of intervention and again after 6 weeks of intervention. RESULTS: Following 3 and 6 weeks of heat treatment, we did not observe significant changes in mitochondrial biogenesis or capillarization. However, exercise training was sufficient to elicit an increase in individual capillary-to-fiber ratio (P = 0.0003), capillary density (P = 0.0428), and the Capillary to Fiber Perimeter Exchange Index (P = 0.0089). Significant increases in the expression of mitochondrial protein Complexes I (P = 0.0073) and IV (P = 0.0015), were observed in the exercise group, but not the heat or control groups. CONCLUSIONS: 6 weeks of localized HT, when applied to young healthy individuals, is insufficient to induce mitochondrial biogenesis or capillarization in skeletal muscle. Additionally, our findings provide support for the extensive body of literature that connects exercise training to beneficial skeletal muscle adaptations.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.