BACKGROUND: Previous research has established that exercise in the heat and dehydration exacerbate the rise in internal body temperature while exercising, which often results in decreases in performance. Various cooling strategies, including the use of cooling towels, have demonstrated their effectiveness for improving exercise performance in hot environments. While many competitive athletes train and compete in the heat, many recreational athletes complete their exercise in a thermoneutral environment, such as an air-conditioned gym. Additionally, previous research has established that many people live in a chronically dehydrated state. The effectiveness of cooling towels in a thermoneutral environment when participants are dehydrated is currently unknown. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of cooling towels on exercise performance and perceptual measures during moderate intensity exercise in aerobically trained dehydrated females. METHODS: Four females (age = 23 ± 4; body mass = 65.5 ± 10.9) participated in this randomized, counterbalanced, crossover study. For both trials, participants arrived at the lab following a twelve-hour fluid restriction. Their first-morning urine was collected, and urine specific gravity (USG) and urine color were assessed (USG = 1.024 ± 0.005; Urine Color = 5 ± 1). Participants cycled on a cycle ergometer for 45 minutes, keeping their heart rate between 75-85% of their estimated heart rate max. In one trial, cooling towels (Mission Inc. New York, New York) were applied to the head, neck, and wrists from minutes 30 to 45 of the exercise bout. Total distance and perceptual thermal sensation were recorded every 5 minutes throughout exercise. RESULTS: Total distance (p = 0.870) was not different between the trials. Perceptual thermal sensation was significantly lower for 15 minutes after application (p < 0.001) CONCLUSION: the use of multi-site cooling towels did not enhance exercise performance but did improve thermal sensation in a thermoneutral environment.

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