Post-exercise Warm or Cold Water Immersion to Augment the Cardiometabolic Benefits of Exercise Training: A Proof of Concept Trial

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Frontiers in Physiology


We investigated whether substituting the final half within 60-min bouts of exercise with passive warm or cold water immersion would provide similar or greater benefits for cardiometabolic health. Thirty healthy participants were randomized to two of three short-term training interventions in a partial crossover (12 sessions over 14–16 days, 4 week washout): (i) EXS: 60 min cycling 70% maximum heart rate (HRmax), (ii) WWI: 30 min cycling then 30 min warm water (38–40°C) immersion, and/or (iii) CWI: 30 min cycling then 30 min cold water (10–12°C) immersion. Before and after, participants completed a 20 min cycle work trial, (Formula presented.) O2max test, and an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test during which indirect calorimetry was used to measure substrate oxidation and metabolic flexibility (slope of fasting to post-prandial carbohydrate oxidation). Data from twenty two participants (25 ± 5 year, BMI 23 ± 3 kg/m2, Female = 11) were analyzed using a fixed-effects linear mixed model. (Formula presented.) O2max increased more in EXS (interaction p = 0.004) than CWI (95% CI: 1.1, 5.3 mL/kg/min, Cohen’s d = 1.35), but not WWI (CI: −0.4, 3.9 mL/kg/min, d = 0.72). Work trial distance and power increased 383 ± 223 m and 20 ± 6 W, respectively, without differences between interventions (interaction both p > 0.68). WWI lowered post-prandial glucose ∼9% (CI −1.9, −0.5 mmol/L; d = 0.63), with no difference between interventions (interaction p = 0.469). Substituting the second half of exercise with WWI provides similar cardiometabolic health benefits to time matched exercise, however, substituting with CWI does not.

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