Heat alleviation strategies for athletic performance: A review and practitioner guidelines

Oliver R. Gibson*, Carl A. James, Jessica A. Mee, Ashley G. B. Willmott, Gareth Turner, Mark Hayes, Neil S. Maxwell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


International competition inevitably presents logistical challenges for athletes. Events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games require further consideration given historical climate data suggest athletes will experience significant heat stress. Given the expected climate, athletes face major challenges to health and performance. With this in mind, heat alleviation strategies should be a fundamental consideration. This review provides a focused perspective of the relevant literature describing how practitioners can structure male and female athlete preparations for performance in hot, humid conditions. Whilst scientific literature commonly describes experimental work, with a primary focus on maximizing magnitudes of adaptive responses, this may sacrifice ecological validity, particularly for athletes whom must balance logistical considerations aligned with integrating environmental preparation around training, tapering and travel plans. Additionally, opportunities for sophisticated interventions may not be possible in the constrained environment of the athlete village or event arenas. This review therefore takes knowledge gained from robust experimental work, interprets it and provides direction on how practitioners/coaches can optimize their athletes’ heat alleviation strategies. This review identifies two distinct heat alleviation themes that should be considered to form an individualized strategy for the athlete to enhance thermoregulatory/performance physiology. First, chronic heat alleviation techniques are outlined, these describe interventions such as heat acclimation, which are implemented pre, during and post-training to prepare for the increased heat stress. Second, acute heat alleviation techniques that are implemented immediately prior to, and sometimes during the event are discussed.

Abbreviations: CWI: Cold water immersion; HA: Heat acclimation; HR: Heart rate; HSP: Heat shock protein; HWI: Hot water immersion; LTHA: Long-term heat acclimation; MTHA: Medium-term heat acclimation; ODHA: Once-daily heat acclimation; RH: Relative humidity; RPE: Rating of perceived exertion; STHA: Short-term heat acclimation; TCORE: Core temperature; TDHA: Twice-daily heat acclimation; TS: Thermal sensation; TSKIN: Skin temperature; V̇O2max: Maximal oxygen uptake; WGBT: Wet bulb globe temperature

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-36
Number of pages34
Issue number1
Early online date12 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Heat acclimation
  • heat acclimatization
  • thermoregulation
  • cooling
  • adaptation
  • athlete


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