The problem of getting overheated can bring a quick end to a workout. And if you happen to be overweight or obese, you're going to heat up a lot faster than a person who weighs less, says Stacy Sims, an exercise physiologist at Stanford University in California.
She compares the excess pounds to an added layer of insulation. "It's kind of like Lance Armstrong wearing a wetsuit while riding in the whole Tour de France," she said. Being overheated contributes to a feeling of fatigue.
But, she said, these exercise limitations can be overcome by simply cooling down the hands. As blood circulates through the hands, it pulls heat out of the body and returns cooler blood to the core.
Dr. Sims conducted a three-month study of 24 obese women. Half were asked to follow an exercise routine while wearing special cooling mitts designed to lower body temperature. The others were asked do the same exercises but without the aid of the cooling device.
The results, which were presented at recent meeting of the American Heart Association, showed that the women wearing cooling mitts were able to steadily increase their exercise duration and lost weight in the process. Most of the other women dropped out of the study.
Dr. Sims noted that the cooling mitts used in the study are extremely expensive and not widely available. (It is used by some hospitals and professional sports teams.) But the same cooling effects can be achieved by holding on to a bottle of icy-cold water. Drinking cold water, at the same time, can also minimize overheating.
Although the study involved overweight volunteers, the results apply to everyone. "If you can slow down the rate at which you feel fatigued by cooling the hands then you are going to get more out of each exercise session," she said.