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Ask the Experts

Cool Hands

by Berkeley Wellness  

Q: Is it true that cooling your hands can make exercising easier?

A: Possibly. Some people avoid exercise because they don’t like getting hot and sweaty. If you’re very overweight, you’re more likely to get overheated because you have more adipose (fat) tissue, which acts as an insulator.

Any way to keep cool while working out has appeal. Hands help regulate body temperature. With their relatively large surface area and extensive supply of blood vessels, they dissipate heat when core temperature rises (dogs’ tongues and rabbits’ ears perform similar functions).

So it’s not surprising that several studies have shown that cooling your hands before, during, or after workouts helps enhance heat dissipation. For example, in a small study from Stanford University, obese women worked out while using a special device that cooled their hands. They were more likely to stick to the workouts over three months than a control group, presumably because they were more comfortable.

In other small studies, hand cooling decreased core body temperature and perceived exertion while exercising in the heat, and also improved athletic performance.

Still, there are many unanswered questions, such as when and how long you should do it and at what temperature. Moreover, some research has not found benefits.

And overdoing it or using water that is too cold may cause blood vessels in the hand to constrict, which could prevent heat dissipation.

If you tend to get very overheated when you exercise, cooling your hands may be worth a try. You can carry a bottle of cold water in each hand. Alternatively, try immersing your hands in cool water (50° to 60°F) for 10 minutes before you exercise.

Or, if feasible, you can put your hands in cold water during breaks in your workout. There are also special palm wraps (such as Cool Point and BEX Runner), which are gel packs that you freeze before using.