Cold Hands

Cold Hands
OK, all the female readers with me now? (And of course all you guys who have the privledge of sharing those icy hands and feet when you crawl into bed.) Seriously, managing heat is one of your body’s biggest tasks when exercising. In order to shed heat, blood is diverted from the deep organs to near the surface of your skin, especially your hands and feet. (Your head, as well, though that’s mainly because although your brain is about one-fiftieth of your weight, it consumes about 30% of the oxygen you breathe – so there’s always tremendous flow.) Diverting oxygen-carrying blood away from the muscles to the skin has the obvious effect of making the muscles less efficient. Chris Heller and Dennis Grahn at Stanford made a “glove” – essentially a small vacuum chamber with a heat-sapping water-cooled steel plate for the hand – that sucks heat from the body with high efficiency. This allows more blood to flow to the muscles and internal organs and less to the skin. In tests with eight professional cyclists, using the glove resulted in performances 6% faster in a 30K time trial than without. That is an incredible difference. Downside – the cylicsts were on a treadmill, and we runners aren’t likely any time soon to be carrying water-cooled steel plates on our hands. What it does suggest, though, is that the elite marathoners you see running through 40-degree weather in Chicago in just shorts and singlet know exactly what they’re doing. (Reported in New Scientist, 26-Oct-2002). (11/9)

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