How the Nervous System Helps to Maintain Body Temperature During Exercise

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Without the central nervous system to regulate and maintain body temperature, you'd be hard pressed to make it through a day in the middle of the summer or winter. Maintaining a consistent body temperature becomes even more important during exercise. By exerting yourself, you elevate your heart rate and put stress on your body. Your nervous system reacts differently to exercise in hot and cold temperatures, maintaining stability and avoiding extreme changes in core temperature.

Temperature Control

  • Your nervous system regulates temperature according to information gathered by the hypothalamus, the processing center in the brain that regulates core temperature. When your nervous system needs to adapt to change your body temperature, it does so almost instantly by raising or lowering your heart rate and triggering reactions in effectors, such as sweat glands and tiny muscles controlling body hair.

Hot Temperatures

  • Common sense would suggest that exercising in hot temperatures will force your body to overheat if core body temperature isn't cooled during exercise. Your nervous system does this by raising your heart rate, dilating blood vessels and heating the surface of the skin, which kicks off a sweat response. Sweat allows your body to release heat more efficiently, cooling you off in the process. This is why staying hydrated is so important when working out in hot temperatures.

Cold Temperatures

  • Aside from straightening body hair in an attempt to reduce heat loss, your nervous system responds to cold temperatures by constricting blood vessels and maintaining core temperature. Once you get cold enough, your body may start to shiver. Shivering helps to warm you up by inducing rapid muscle contractions, burning off a lot of energy in the process.

Extremes

  • If you exercise too hard or too long in extreme temperatures, your nervous system isn't going to be able to regulate body temperature effectively. Extremes in body temperature should be avoided at all costs. Overheating can lead to life-threatening conditions such as heat stroke and dehydration, while allowing your body temperature to plummet will put you in a hypothermic state.

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