I was taking part in a study at Loughborough University on sweat distribution and how it changes as we age. Project leader, PhD student Nicole Coull, explained that we sweat less when we get older because the output from each sweat gland reduces. As sweating is the body’s natural way of regulating our core temperature, this puts us more at risk of heat-induced illnesses and fatality during exposure to warm environmental conditions, and during exercise.
Before Nicole’s project, evidence confirmed this age-related decline in sweat in certain body regions, but it wasn’t known how the sweat rate varies over the entire body, or how it changes from rest to exercise. And she felt that due to the ageing population, along with global warming and heatwaves, this area of research needed expanding.
Her project focuses on gaining a better understanding of age-related differences in sweat rates over several regions of the body. To successfully accomplish that, it investigates sweat rates during rest and exercise in men aged between 18 and 80. Which meant my first session involved 30 sweat pads attached to my torso and arms; with 20 on my legs for the second period the following week.
So…first session; torso and arms. Five hours before each test I had swallowed a special pill which enabled a computer to monitor my core temperature at all times during the trials.
Pads to collect my sweat were attached to pieces of black plastic and fastened around my body.
Then, with a heart monitor on my wrist I set off on my 25 minute hike on the treadmill.
Oh, and my feet also encased in socks and plastic bags.
Overall, I lost 0.222 kg of sweat from my torso, and 0.273 kg from my legs. Oh…and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my metabolic age is 46, indicating a good overall level of health and wellness.
As well as providing scientific data on age-related changes in thermal responses, Nicole’s research may change the way clothes are designed for different age groups, incorporating more ventilation in certain areas. And it could also be used to improve climate control in buildings and cars, and for thermal modelling and public health guidance.