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Do sex differences in thermoregulation pose a concern for female athletes preparing for the Tokyo Olympics?
  1. Sean R Notley1,
  2. Sebastien Racinais2,
  3. Glen P Kenny1
  1. 1 Human and Environmental Physiology Research Unit, School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2 Research and Scientific Support Department, Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar
  1. Correspondence to Professor Glen P Kenny, School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa ON K1N 6N5, Canada; gkenny{at}

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The hot-humid environmental conditions (27°C–31°C, 60%–80% relative humidity) expected for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics will pose a considerable thermoregulatory challenge for athletes, which will impair performance and potentially compromise safety. Perhaps due to the conventional belief that women are at a thermoregulatory disadvantage compared with men, many coaches have questioned whether training and competing in such conditions will be particularly challenging for female athletes. As an extension of this editorial series,1 we therefore provide a physiologist’s perspective on three of the common questions raised.

Does sex impact exercise thermoregulation?

Numerous investigators have documented sex differences in exercise thermoregulation; however, until recently, it remained uncertain whether those differences were related to sex per se or simply due to secondary differences in body size and aerobic fitness between the men and women studied. Such secondary differences influence exercise thermoregulation primarily by modulating metabolic heat production and the heat loss required to prevent continued rises in core temperature. For example, due to their smaller size, heat production per unit body mass or surface area and the resultant rise in core temperature would be greater in women during weight-supported exercise at a fixed work rate (eg, cycling at 200 W). While determining the potential, magnitude of these effects during training or competition is complex, they pose no more of a …

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to the conception of the work, drafted and revised the manuscript, and approved of final version.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.