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Students explore elite pre-cooling for sports performance

Published: November 23, 2017

Cornwall College Camborne

Physiological testing in science laboratory conditions in Cornwall have reinforced the view that athletes who experience extreme cooling of hands and feet, exert less stress on their hearts and bodies when exercising.

A series of tests were carried out by students studying the Foundation Sport, Health and Fitness degree course at Cornwall College in their dedicated sports science laboratory.

The main test was to look at the effects of pre-cooling on hands and feet and how after a strict time period, this affected the physiological strain on the body, when conducting a cycle ergometer test for a set amount of time.

Louise Fletcher, Lecturer, Sports Performance, Cornwall College said that two students “agreed to be our guinea pigs”.

“Firstly they took part in a timed cycle run in a warm science lab, where heart rate, levels of exertion and thermal stress were measured,” she said.

“On a separate day they then had their hands and feet plunged into cold icy-water for 10 minutes and conducted the test again. Readings were taken on heart rate, levels of exertion and thermal stress and the results were impressive.  It clearly showed that levels of stress on the body were reduced after our students had been subjected to cold temperatures.”

The test methodology was based on a 10 minute cycle ergometer test.  A constant revolutions per minute (RPM) was maintained with the intensity level increased every two minutes and readings taken every minute.

“These experiments are part of our Exercise Physiology module and really help bring lots of other areas of the course into one discipline,” student Jessica Lee explained.

“It was fascinating to see how cold temperatures can affect the body in a positive way. I’m really enjoying this Foundation degree in Sport, Health and Fitness. We’ve covered so many different areas including coaching, nutrition and psychology. I particularly like the applied anatomy module and this test helps bring it to life.”

Louise added that the benefits to athletes is that this will reduce the physiological strain and stresses imposed on the body by thermal heat during exercise.

“Basically if people experience pre-cooling before exercise, this will reduce overall body temperature; helping to reduce exertion levels and heart rate, thus increasing the time it takes to reach critical limiting temperatures and as a result increase the level of performance.”

Students utilised established research to help with their experiment including – an in-depth report from the Journal of Sports Sciences (1999) D. Kay, D.R. Taaffe and F.E. Marino who concluded that, “the results indicate that skin pre-cooling in the absence of a reduced rectal temperature is effective in reducing thermal strain and increasing the distance cycled in 30 minutes under warm humid conditions.”

The sports students are in their second year and on successful completion can progress onto the BSc (Hons) Sport, Health & Exercise Science degree, with careers in the sport, leisure and fitness industries.

Sports and fitness is a strong draw for Cornwall College, boasting great facilities on campus including an all-weather floodlit pitch, gym, their own climbing wall and home to the West Cornwall Football Development Centre.

Students are also encouraged to study an additional qualification to help with employability into careers such as personal trainers, fitness instructors and pool lifeguards.

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