A Review by Alyssa Bialowas

As an athlete, the climate you train in isn’t always the climate you’ll be competing in. Your body gets used to a certain range of temperature when training and performing, and a change in climate can lead to decreased performance if you’re not prepared.

A stark jump in temperature can make it difficult for athletes to adapt to the heat and can negatively affect their in-game movements and overall performance. In Australia specifically, the Australian Football League players have to travel from Southern Australia (where they train and play at 12-18 degrees Celsius) to tropical Northern Australia to compete in temperatures up to 35 degrees Celsius. This switch imposes a thermoregulatory stress on the players, and it’s suggested that they take part in a period of heat acclimation before competing in the heat.

The human body can adapt to the stress of heat with repeated heat exposure, so the question stands, can short duration High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session in the heat induce heat acclimation for professional athletes?

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The Study

The participants in this study consisted of 14 male Australian Football League or Victorian Football League players. They were randomly assigned to one of two groups: Heat acclimation or Control group. The acclimation group performed five cycle ergometer HIIT sessions in a nine-day period, on a cycle ergometer in the heat. The control group trained in thermo-neutral conditions.

Participants partook in a 30-minute constant load cycling test in the heat both four days prior and two days post HIIT. Researchers measured maximal oxygen consumption, blood lactate concentration, heart rate, rating of perceived exertion, thermal comfort, core and skin temperatures in all participants.

The Results

In the heat acclimation group, participants showed a reduction in rating of perceived exertion, thermal comfort and blood lactate concentration during the submaximal exercise test. Heart rate was lower after HIIT in both groups, and heat acclimation did not have an affect on any other measured variables.

Takeaway

Short duration HIIT in the heat can induce partial heat acclimation in professional male Australian Football players. Five short duration HIIT sessions in the heat, designed to be integrated into an in-season competition phase program, resulted in a reduction in the rating of perceived exertion, thermal comfort and blood lactate during the continuous submaximal exercise test. It would be beneficial for further research to examine a wider range of field sports to conclude whether short duration HIIT in the heat can induce heat acclimation in professional athletes, as a whole.

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Reference

Kelly, M., Gastin, P.B., Dwyer, D.B., Sostaric, S., Snow, R.J. (2016). “Short Duration

Heat Acclimation in Australian Football Players.” Journal of Sports Science and

Medicine, 15, 118-125.