May 09, 2005
Cold Water Exercise Boosts Appetite

University of Florida at Gainsville researchers have found that exerise in cold water boosts appetite as compared to resting or exercise in warm water.

For her study, published in February in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, White tracked the energy used by 11 UF students as they rode a stationary bicycle submerged in water for 45 minutes. The students exercised in cold water of 68 degrees Fahrenheit and warm water of 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The same students, ages 21 to 31, also spent 45 minutes resting.

The study found the students used a similar amount of energy during the exercises, 517 calories in the cold water and 505 in the warm water. Students expended 123 calories while resting.

After each exercise session and the rest period, the students were allowed into a room to measure their blood pressure and heart rates. They were left to rest for one hour in the same room and had free access to a standard assortment of food of known caloric values. However, the students didn't know their caloric intake was going to be measured.

"We found that during the recovery period when the subjects had access to an assortment of foods that significantly more calories were eaten after exercise in cold water compared to exercise in warm water or at rest," White said.

Caloric intake after exercise in cold water was 44 percent higher than exercise in warm water and 41 percent higher than in the resting periods. The students consumed a mean 877 calories after exercise in cold water, 608 calories after exercise in warm water and 618 after resting periods.

Water exercise appeals to obese people people because water reduces the strain on joints. But exercise in cold water may make weight problems even worse.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2005 May 09 02:20 PM  Brain Appetite

Lei said at May 10, 2005 6:03 AM:

This is a pathetic study. With no control group and a pitifully small sample size, the researcher couldn't have been able to control for any confounders, such as BMI. And, giving subjects an assortment of foods seems too uncontrolled as well. Regardless, it looks like she gave the study participants food during mealtime because they all ate more calories than they expended in the period prior to eating. Just another study to make people feel like exercising is just not worth the effort.

Randall Parker said at May 10, 2005 6:34 AM:


Yes, the sample size was small. The same students were used in all three phases of the experiments. So at least that was controlled for. Maybe the research paper reports the BMIs of the 11 students. We'd also need to see whether the experiment was done at the same time of the day for each phase.

It is still an interesting result. But your point about BMI is important. Maybe obese people feel less effect from the cold and it does less to boost their appetite. But then again, maybe the opposite holds.

If the result holds up when done on a large scale then the results will be valuable for weight control efforts. Obese people would need to heat their pools or wear wet suits or engage in exercise that makes them warmer such as stationary cycle peddling.

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