Sensitivity and specificity of using exercise heart rate in a thermoneutral environment to predict heat tolerance status
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San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, USA (School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences)
Douglas Jones   

Diego State University, School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92120, USA
Online publication date: 2023-05-17
Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2023;36(2):192–200
Objectives: Following heat illness, a return to activity may require passing a heat tolerance test (HTT). However, there are several logistical limitations to the widespread use of the HTT. Thus, it would be advantageous to develop a test that could be conducted in a thermoneutral (~22°C) environment to predict heat tolerance status. The purpose of the current study was to determine the sensitivity and specificity of using the criteria of a heart rate (HR) ≥130 bpm following 30 min of thermoneutral exercise in detecting heat-intolerant and heat-tolerant individuals. Material and Methods: Sixty-five subjects visited the lab on 3 separate days. The first visit consisted of completing a maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) test to assess cardiovascular fitness. For lab visits 2 and 3, subjects randomly completed a 2-hour walking treadmill test in either a hot (40°C, 40% relative humidity [RH]) or thermoneutral (22°C, 40% RH) environment. Results: Forty-eight subjects were classified as heat-intolerant and 17 subjects as heat-tolerant. Using the criterion of a HR ≥130 bpm at 30 min of exercise in the thermoneutral environment, specificity (54%) and sensitivity (100%) of passing the HTT was calculated. Secondary analysis using multiple regression revealed 3 significant variables for predicting ending HR during the HTT. They were: 1) absolute VO2 max (l/min), 2) age, and 3) HR at 30 min of exercise during thermoneutral exercise. Conclusions: Exercise in a thermoneutral environment had a positive predictive value of 100%, thus, if a subject has a HR ≥130 bpm at 30 min of exercise in a thermoneutral environment, they are very likely to fail a subsequent 2-hour HTT in the heat and be classified as heat-intolerant. Therefore, prior screening has the potential to save time and money, along with providing safety to a heat-intolerant subject. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2023;36(2):192–200