The effect of environmental temperature and humidity on 24 h energy expenditure in men

M. E. Valencia, J. M. Brockway, J. S. Smith

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The effects of environmental temperature and humidity and their interaction on 24 h energy expenditure were measured using whole-body indirect calorimetry in eight normal-weight young men who wore standardized light clothing and followed a controlled activity regimen. A randomized-block experimental design was used, with temperature effects assessed by measurements at 20, 23, 26 and 30°, while humidity was altered from ambient (50–65 % relative humidity) to high (80–93 % relative humidity) at 20 and 30° only. There was no significant effect of humidity on 24 h energy expenditure at the two extreme temperatures in this range, though when periods of sleep and exercise were excluded the energy expenditure at high humidity was significantly higher than that at ambient humidity (P < 0 02). The effect of temperature at ambient humidity levels showed lower values at 23 and 26° than at 20 and 30° (P < 0 0.02). The effect of temperature was not equally apparent in all components of the 24 h energy expenditure, as sleeping metabolic rate and the energy cost of walking and cycling showed no significant effect of temperature over this range. This raises the possibility that the effects of temperature are attributable to behavioural changes during the waking portion of the day rather than any non-shivering thermogenic mechanisms at tissue level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-327
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1992
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the subjects for their cooperation in these studies; Mike Franklin and Ian Nevinson for statistical advice; Anne Milne for help with subject recruitment, and Linda Massie and Linda Davidson for the preparation of the diets. M. E.V. was supported by an EEC Visiting Research Fellowship which also covered the expenses of this study.


  • Humidity Energy expenditure
  • Temperature


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