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Cool from the inside out.

A DEVICE THAT IMPROVES athletic performance by drawing blood into an athlete's hands could also keep soldiers cool in the field, its developers say.

When people exercise, their muscles consume energy and generate heat as a byproduct. But if too much heat accumulates internally, it affects performance.

Now two biologists at Stanford University have developed a method of cooling athletes by maximizing heat transfer through their palms.

"We literally cool the body from the inside out, rather than from the outside in," said Dennis Grahn, a senior research scientist at Stanford.

The device draws blood into the hands, where it is cooled before it is circulated back to the rest of the body, Grahn said. He developed the cooling device along with H. Craig Heller, a professor of human and environmental biology.

To use the system, athletes place their hands in a rigid chamber, from which a bit of air is removed, to cause blood to be pulled into the hand, Grahn said.

At the same time, a device circulates cool water through a system on which the palm rests. This two-step approach cools the blood in the hand's vascular heat-exchange structures, Grahn said.

The cooled blood circulates throughout the body, cooling it from the inside out.

Researchers found that when people used the cooling device during anaerobic exercise, such as weight lifting, the effects on exercise performance were dramatic.

"We helped a weight-lifter increase his capacity to do pull-ups from 180 to 600 in the same time period after six weeks of training," Grahn said.

During aerobic exercise, such as running in the heat, the device greatly extends endurance, he added. Even better is that the rapid increases in strength people get when using the device persist after they stop using it.

"The device could be useful for factory workers and military personnel who work in hot environments," Grahn said.

"Military applications will be enormous if the technology can be developed as a glove, much like a bicycling glove, that won't impede fine motor control," he said.

Grahn and Heller also plan to incorporate their device into a boot.

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Title Annotation:computing
Publication:Mechanical Engineering-CIME
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2004
Words:350
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