Effect of cold indoor environment on physical performance of older women living in the community
Background: the effects of cold on older persons’ body and mind are not well documented, but with an increased number of older people with decreasing physical performance, these possible effects need to be understood.
Objective: to investigate the effect of cold indoor environment on physical performance of older women.
Subjects: eighty-eight community-dwelling, cognitively unimpaired older women (mean age 78 years).
Methods: participants were exposed to moderately cold (15°C) and warm/normal (25°C) temperature in a climate chamber in random order with an interval of 1 week. The assessment protocol included leg extensor power (Nottingham Power Rig), sit-to-stand performance velocity (linear encoder), gait speed, walk-ratio (i.e. step length/cadence on an instrumented walk way), maximal quadriceps and hand grip strength.
Results: physical performance was lower in 15°C room temperature compared with 25°C room temperature for leg extensor power (P < 0.0001), sit-to-stand performance velocity (P < 0.0001), gait speed (P < 0.0001), walk-ratio (P = 0.016) and maximal quadriceps strength (P = 0.015), but not for hand grip strength.
Conclusion: in healthy older women a moderately cold indoor environment decreased important physical performance measures necessary for independent living.