CDU researchers test the effect of air-conditioning on heat tolerance 


Darwin’s tropical lifestyle and our ability to tolerate heat, was tested recently by Charles Darwin University (CDU) researchers at the Northern Territory Institute of Sport.

The research examines the level of heat acclimatisation in 48 Australian Defence Force (ADF) staff using a climate control chamber in the Marrara Stadium complex.

CDU’s Coordinator of Exercise and Sport Science Paul Finn said: “Although we live in a hot and humid region of Australia, many of us live and work in air-conditioned places. We are aiming to find out the effect that time spent in air-conditioning has on people acclimatising to heat.

“This is of particular interest to the ADF, who have engaged us to investigate whether or not chronic exposure to air-conditioned environments when living in hot locations has a negative effect on a person’s heat acclimatisation status.

“Ultimately, it is anticipated the research will contribute to heat stress management guidance,” said Paul.

The participants, who live and work with varying degrees of exposure to air-conditioning, have volunteered to walk on treadmills in the climate control chamber. Each is dressed in work clothing and walks for up to four hours in constant 34 degree conditions and 60 per cent relative humidity.

During this time the researchers measure heart rate, ECG signals, oxygen consumption, sweat loss, sweat composition, skin temperature and body core temperature to ascertain the participant’s tolerance to heat.

Other factors being taken into account include estimates of the participant’s maximal aerobic power and body fat, age, time spent in Darwin, previous climate living experience, incidence of previous heat injury, past and present fitness activities, and typical daily activities.

The National Heat Training and Acclimatisation Centre is a partnership between CDU and the Northern Territory Institute of Sport. Funding for the research project was provided by the Commonwealth Government.