Body Segment Differences in Surface Area, Skin Temperature and 3D Displacement and the Estimation of Heat Balance during Locomotion in Hominins
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The conventional method of estimating heat balance during locomotion in humans and other hominins treats the body as an undifferentiated mass. This is problematic because the segments of the body differ with respect to several variables that can affect thermoregulation. Here, we report a study that investigated the impact on heat balance during locomotion of inter-segment differences in three of these variables: surface area, skin temperature and rate of movement. The approach adopted in the study was to generate heat balance estimates with the conventional method and then compare them with heat balance estimates generated with a method that takes into account inter-segment differences in surface area, skin temperature and rate of movement. We reasoned that, if the hypothesis that inter-segment differences in surface area, skin temperature and rate of movement affect heat balance during locomotion is correct, the estimates yielded by the two methods should be statistically significantly different. Anthropometric data were collected on seven adult male volunteers. The volunteers then walked on a treadmill at 1.2 m/s while 3D motion capture cameras recorded their movements. Next, the conventional and segmented methods were used to estimate the volunteers’ heat balance while walking in four ambient temperatures. Lastly, the estimates produced with the two methods were compared with the paired t-test. The estimates of heat balance during locomotion yielded by the two methods are significantly different. Those yielded by the segmented method are significantly lower than those produced by the conventional method. Accordingly, the study supports the hypothesis that inter-segment differences in surface area, skin temperature and rate of movement impact heat balance during locomotion. This has important implications not only for current understanding of heat balance during locomotion in hominins but also for how future research on this topic should be approached.