Sweat Equity

It's never too early to donate your body to science.

illustration of man sweating while peddling on recumbent bike and breathing through a tube while watching a heart monitor, by Frank Stockton

Over beers a few months back, my buddy Dan Vecellio ’11 EMS mentioned a lab study in need of volunteers. Dan’s a climate scientist, and he came back to campus last fall for a postdoc gig with physiology and kinesiology professor Larry Kenney ’83 PhD IDF, whose PSU H.E.A.T project is working to determine just how much heat human bodies can withstand on an increasingly hotter planet. Specifically, they were looking for people willing to sit in a room and sweat, a lot, for science.

I signed up, and in February I made the short walk to Noll Lab for a blood test and an electrocardiogram, then came back a few weeks later for a stress test that involved running uphill on a treadmill for 10 minutes at a near-sprint while covered in sensors, having my blood pressure taken every two minutes, and wearing an awkward plastic halo-mouthpiece contraption connected to a hose that allowed the researchers (including doctoral student Rachel Cottle ’20, ’22 MS H&HD) to measure my oxygen levels. Having survived, I was deemed healthy enough to participate in the actual study.

I came back in March for two sessions, one in which the room would be hot and humid, the other hot and dry. Each session involved sitting on a stationary recumbent bike and pedaling very slowly while hooked up to a few sensors (and, briefly, that awful oxygen hose), while my core temperature was relayed via a tiny, pill-sized thermometer I’d swallowed that morning. My first session went two-plus hours, and I felt foolish when Cottle told me afterward that what I’d been certain was the hot-and-humid session was, in fact, pretty dry. But there was no doubting the heat: When I started, the room temperature was 104 degrees. By the time my core temp got high enough that I was allowed to stop, it was up to 129. (I went back a few weeks later for the humid test; since they weren’t interested in studying cadavers, they capped the temp for that one at 94.)

Was it fun? I’m not sure that’s the word I’d use, but I’m glad I did it. Getting to play a small role in helping some meaningful research was well worth a few hours of my time—and a few pounds’ worth of sweat.

Ryan Jones signature




Ryan Jones ’95 Com  | Editor
ryanjones@psu.edu  | Twitter: @RJPennStater