Current Weather
The Spy FM

Summer Science: Clothes Keep You Cool, More Or Less

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
July 25, 2012

The cool weather in London is good news for the Olympic athletes because their bodies won’t need to put as much energy into cooling off.

But most of us aren’t lucky enough to be headed to London, and we could use some help keeping cool.

When you get hot you sweat — but it’s not enough to just sweat. To cool off, you need that sweat to evaporate. It’s evaporation that drains the heat from your body.

To help the sweat evaporate, you want air to flow over your skin — as much of your skin as possible. So the best clothing for people to wear when exercising is none at all.

That’s according to George Havenith, a professor of environmental physiology and ergonomics at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, England.

“They would probably want to wear some underwear to just cover up and be comfortable in that way. But in terms of the heat loss, the naked person is best able to lose heat.”

That’s only if the sun’s not shining. If the sun’s out, you need clothing to protect your skin from burning.

“So then you have to find a balance with a certain amount of clothing coverage,” Havenith says, “without the clothing actually hampering the sweat evaporation.”

But that made me wonder. Why wear clothes? Why not just wear sunscreen?

“Unfortunately sunscreen sometimes affects sweating,” Havenith said. “So the sunscreen then might reduce the amount of sweat evaporation or the amount of sweat production. So that’s where things again could go wrong.”

So if you’re exercising in the heat, wear as little as possible, especially after the sun goes down.

But if you’re not an Olympic track star, skimpy Spandex is not the way to go. Think light and loose. That’s because even you don’t feel like you’re sweating, you still want to evaporate moisture off your skin. The loose clothing allows air to pass long the skin and exit, speeding evaporation and carrying off excess heat.

Another big question in the summer clothing world is color: dark or light?

Researchers have studied the heavy black robes worn by Bedouins in the desert. They say the key there is thickness. The outer layer of fabric does get hotter because the black color absorbs more heat. And that heat doesn’t get transmitted to the skin because of the thick fabric.

But thin black clothing transmits that heat to the skin, making a person hotter.

To sum up: Light-colored clothes in the summertime during the day, and get naked at night.

“I’ll leave that to you to be said,” Havenith said. “But in essence that’s probably quite the basics.” [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

Listen Live Now!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

10AM to 11PM On Point

On Point

On Point unites distinct and provocative voices with passionate discussion as it confronts the stories that are at the center of what is important in the world today. Leaving no perspective unchallenged, On Point digs past the surface and into the core of a subject, exposing each of its real world implications.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center