Effect of precooling on physical performance in multiple sclerosis

Author(s): White AT, Wilson TE, Davis SL, Petajan JH


Many individuals with MS experience heat sensitivity that may be associated with transient increases in the frequency of clinical signs and symptoms. Although physical activity may be beneficial for those with MS, induced thermal loads may preclude participation in exercise and other daily activities. This project was designed to evaluate the effects of precooling on physical function. Six thermosensitive MS patients were studied. Participants performed a graded exercise test to determine maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) on a combined arm-leg ergometer. Thermal load was induced by 30 min of exercise under noncooled and precooled conditions at a workrate corresponding to 60% VO2max. Precooling consisted of 30 min lower body immersion in 16 - 17 degrees C water. Fatigue and 25-ft walk performance were assessed before, immediately after, and 30 min following exercise. No treatment differences in VO2 were observed. Rectal temperature, heart rate, and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were significantly lower during the precooled exercise trial compared to the noncooled trial. Immediately following exercise, 25-ft walk performance and fatigue scores showed significantly greater deterioration in the noncooled condition. Precooling was effective in preventing gains in core temperature with physical work and may allow heat-sensitive individuals with MS to exercise with greater physical comfort.

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