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Cool palms during workout may lead to a smaller waistline, study shows


(CBS News) Next time you workout, try keeping something cool in your hands - at least, that's what a new study suggests.

A Stanford University study, presented this week at an American Heart Association Meeting in San Diego, found that when obese women who never exercised wear a cooling device on their palms, they were able to reduce blood pressure, lose more inches off their waist and improve their overall speed compared to the control group.

"It works to reduce the sensation of being overly hot and sweaty," study author Dr. Stacy Sims, an exercise physiologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, told NPR. "The idea is to allow those people to overcome the initial barriers that heat intolerance produces. It gives them positive affirmation to keep going."

The study involved 24 women aged 30 to 45 with a body mass index (BMI) between 30 to 34.9, who were asked to exercise three times a day for 12 weeks. A BMI over 30 is considered obese. The women exercised for 45 minutes each time, starting with basic stretches and ending on the treadmill at 80 percent of their maximum heart rate.

Half were asked to wear an AVAcore Rapid Thermal Exchange, a cooling device which is usually found in sports training facilities, clinics and hospitals. With the device, water cooled to 61 F was then pumped over the hands while they were placed in a vacuum container to maintain bloodflow. The rest of the women also wore the device, but had water heated to 98.6 F - the body's natural temperature - pumped over their hands.

Women who had cooler water  circulating over their hands shaved an average of five minutes off their 1.5 mile walk, reduced their waist size by an average of 3 inches, lowered their resting blood rate and increased their exercise heart rate. The control group had no major changes.

Sims said because the women were cooler, they were more likely to stick with the program.

"Obese women often complain about sweating and getting tired because they're walking around with extra insulation," Sims said. "If you can slow the rate internal temperature rises and cool someone who is obese, they don't store as much heat and don't feel as uncomfortable. They can do more work."

Not everyone can afford the $4000 device, but Sims says that holding a frozen water bottle in your hand might do the trick and lower your core temperature. American Heart Association spokesperson Dr. Gerald Fletcher told WebMD that  working out in a gym with a fan or air conditioner, drinking cold water and swimming to maintain a cool level of comfort.