Aging and human temperature regulation

W. Larry Kenney, Thayne A. Munce

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

364 Scopus citations


This mini-review focuses on the effects of aging on human temperature regulation. Although comprehensive reviews have been published on this topic (Kenney WL. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1997, p. 41-76; Pandolf KB. Exp Aging Res 17: 189-204, 1991; Van Someren EJ, Raymann RJ, Scherder EJ, Daanen HA, and Swaab DF. Ageing Res Rev 1: 721-778, 2002; and Young AJ. Exp Aging Res 17: 205-213, 1991), this mini-review concisely summarizes the present state of knowledge about human temperature regulation and aging in thermoneutral conditions, as well as during hypo- and hyperthermic challenges. First, we discuss age-related effects on baseline body core temperature and phasing rhythms of the circadian temperature cycle. We then examine the altered physiological responses to cold stress that result from aging, including attenuated peripheral vasoconstriction and reduced cold-induced metabolic heat production. Finally, we present the age-related changes in sweating and cardiovascular function associated with heat stress. Although epidemiological evidence of increased mortality among older adults from hypo- and hyperthermia exists, this outcome does not reflect an inability to thermoregulate with advanced age. In fact, studies that have attempted to separate the effects of chronological age from concurrent factors, such as fitness level, body composition, and the effects of chronic disease, have shown that thermal tolerance appears to be minimally compromised by age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2598-2603
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Cold stress
  • Heat stress
  • Skin blood flow
  • Sweating
  • Thermoregulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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