Cool Hands May Help People Exercise Longer

Hand-Cooling Device Lets People Feel More Comfortable When Exercising

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on March 13, 2012
From the WebMD Archives

March 13, 2012 -- Cool hands, healthy heart?

A new study shows that cool hands may allow you to exercise for longer periods of time.

Obese women who placed their hands in a cooling device while exercising, such as walking on a treadmill, were able to outlast their counterparts whose held a lukewarm device. The cooling device used was the AVAcore CoreControl device, which cools the palms and pulls heat from the body.

Many people become uncomfortably hot and sweaty during exercise. “Cooling will decrease the fatigue that goes with starting an exercise program and allow you to feel more comfortable when you get fit,” says study author Stacy T. Sims, PhD. She is an exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif.

Can't afford the $3,000 price tag attached to this device?

Holding an ice-cold water bottle is a less expensive alternative. “Freeze a bottle of water and take it with you so you have it in your hand as you exercise, and you can drink cold water as it is melting,” she says.

The findings were presented at the 2012 American Heart Association (AHA) Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism meeting in San Diego.

Cool Hands = Cool Body

During the 12-week study, 24 women aged 30 to 45 who were considered obese based on their body mass index (BMI) held either the cooling device or the lukewarm comparison device while they exercised. This was not a weight loss study. It was a fitness study designed to get women more comfortable with exercising.

The women who used the cooling device tended to outlast those who did not. More women in the comparison group dropped out of the study because they felt uncomfortable when exercising.

Women in the cooling device group also lost 3 inches off their waist size, had lower resting blood pressure, and had greater exercise heart rates. What’s more, women who used the cooling device shaved five minutes off the time it took them to walk 1.5 miles, the study shows. By contrast, women who did not use the cooling device saw no such changes after the three-month study.

Hands Can Regulate Body’s Thermostat

“By cooling the hands, you cool the rest of the body,” says Jerrold Petrofsky, PhD. He is a professor of physical therapy at Loma Linda University School of Allied Health in Loma Linda, Calif. “The hands are a very important switch to our internal thermostat.”

And “anything to keep body temperature down will prolong exercise,” he says.

AHA spokesperson Gerald Fletcher, MD, agrees. He is also a professor of medicine in the department of cardiovascular diseases at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Jacksonville, Fla.

“Cool hands make a person feel more comfortable during exercise,” he says. Other ways to stay cool include working out in a gym with a fan or air conditioner, drinking cold water, and swimming.

Cooling’s benefits may involve more than just the comfort factor. It is possible that cooling results in changes in circulation. “I think it is possible, but we don't know,” he says.

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

Show Sources


American Heart Association Epidemiology and Prevention, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism meeting, San Diego, Calif., March 13-16, 2012.

Gerald Fletcher, MD, professor of medicine-cardiovascular diseases, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Jacksonville, Fla.

Stacy T. Sims, PhD, exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.

Jerrold Petrofsky, PhD, professor of physical therapy, Loma Linda University School of Allied Health, Loma Linda, Calif.

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