Recent studies suggest that episodic increases in cerebral blood flow (CBF) may contribute to the improvement in brain health associated with exercise training. Optimising CBF during exercise may enhance this benefit. Water immersion in ~ 30–32 °C augments CBF at rest and during exercise; however, the impact of water temperature on the CBF response has not been investigated. We hypothesised that cycle ergometry in water would increase CBF compared to land-based exercise, and that warm water would attenuate the CBF benefits.
Eleven young heathy participants (nine males; 23.8 ± 3.1 yrs) completed 30 min of resistance-matched cycle exercise in three separate conditions; non-immersion (Land), 32 °C and 38 °C water immersion up to the level of the waist. Middle cerebral artery velocity (MCAv), blood pressure, and respiratory measures were assessed throughout the exercise bouts.
Core temperature was significantly higher in the 38 °C immersion than 32 °C (+ 0.84 ± 0.24 vs + 0.04 ± 0.16,
P< 0.001), whilst mean arterial pressure was lower during 38 °C exercise compared to Land (84 ± 8 vs 100 ± 14 mmHg, P< 0.001) and 32 °C (92 ± 9, P= 0.03). MCAv was higher in 32 °C immersion compared to the Land and 38 °C conditions throughout the exercise bout (68 ± 10 vs 64 ± 11 vs 62 ± 12 cm/s, P= 0.03 and P= 0.02, respectively). Conclusion
Our findings suggest that cycle exercise in warm water attenuates the beneficial impact of water immersion on CBF velocity due to redistribution of blood flow to subserve thermoregulatory demand. Our findings suggest that, whilst water-based exercise can have beneficial effects on cerebrovascular function, water temperature is a key determinant of this benefit.