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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Thermoregulation Technology in Nike Apparel

Nike has new apparel technology that supports the body’s existing thermoregulation capabilities by sensing moisture vapor and opening its structure to maximize breathability.

Yes, that is as amazing as it sounds.

For most people, unless you’re sick, a thermometer will register an internal body temperature of approximately 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s your core temperature; thermoregulation keeps it constant.  If you go too low or too high, your body may be getting sick or having some other issue that needs monitoring.  Body temperature can serve as a baseline health metric.  Equally as important for athletes the body temperature during training or competition is one of the most critical performance indicators.

For those of you that are like me and not scientists, here is a brief summary.   “Thermo” is anything temperature related; “regulation,” is the act of regulating.  If we combine the two words to create thermoregulation it now describes what happens when the temperature around an organism changes and the organism responds to that change, with the goal of maintaining the same core temperature.

According to Barry Spiering the director of applied apparel research from the Explore Team Sport Research Lab at Nike, “Essentially, thermoregulation is the body’s version of a house’s central heating and cooling system”.   He explains that when the thermostat is set to a certain temperature, let’s say 72 degrees, the heating and cooling system will continuously work to keep that tempature in the house.  If it is cold outside, the system may need to add some extra heat.  If it is hot outside, it may need to work to cool the inside house temperature.  Regardless of what’s going on outside, the system aims to keep the house at a cool, comfortable 72 degrees.

Similar to the houses system, our body does everything it can to keep us at an optimal temperature.  If we get too hot, our body will supply sweat to help cool us down.  The sweat is our body’s coolant system.   As sweat evaporates, it removes body heat.  Conversely, when it’s cold your body generates heat through involuntary movement such as shivering.  Without our instruction, our body typically knows what needs to be done and acts accordingly.

Athletes experience thermoregulation typically as they train.  This has it’s pluses and minus (pros & cons).  On the negative side, as your body is reacting to regulate your temperature it can potentially divert energy (or resources) from one area of your body to another.  The harder the body strives to stay cool, the more difficult it becomes to perform at the most optimal levels.

Nike is helping athletes focus on performance by evolving something that can support the body’s natural thermoregulation process: whatever it’s wearing.

The Nike Explore Team Sport Research Lab — comprised of top physiologists, biomechanists, and perception scientists — is dedicated to this goal. It employs cutting-edge technology, such as environmental chambers that simulate the temperature and humidity of competition locations worldwide, and works with athletes of all levels to test materials and corresponding body temperature in different climates at various levels of exertion.

Believe it or not, they even have a walking and sweating thermal manikin named Hal.  This super manikin Hal helps measure everything from thermal resistance (apparel’s ability to insulate against heat loss) to evaporative resistance (apparel’s ability to allow sweat to evaporate).  In addition to using Hal, Nike also uses real athletes to help test new clothing.
Recent achievements include Nike AeroReact.  AeroReact isn’t just a fabric; it’s a wearable technology that can sense (and respond to) performance in real time. When you’re warming up and beginning to sweat, AeroReact fabric senses that moisture vapor and opens its structure to maximize breathability.

Nike Therma-Sphere Max is a three-layer composite material specifically designed for cool weather.  It helps keep wearers warm and dry, without weighing them down, while also trapping heat close to the body with Nike Sphere raised-node technology.

Meanwhile, Nike Aeroloft technology addresses the challenge of helping keep athletes warm, but not too warm, in cooler conditions.  An ultra-light insulating layer of down traps heat for warmth while laser-cut holes provide breathability by allowing it to escape.
There’s also Nike Pro Hyperwarm. A fabric specifically designed for athletes combating cold weather outdoor workouts, it combines multiple textures into one form-fitting core garment that can be layered or worn on its own.

The team doesn’t just explore cold weather; heat is also a major factor in material design and selection. Nike Dri-FIT technology embodies innovation that helps keep athletes cool by wicking sweat off the body and allowing it to dry, and Nike Pro Hypercool’s ultra-lightweight material has a unique open-hole pattern in the back to help improve ventilation during movement.

Wherever you are, whatever the weather, these innovations support your body’s own impressive thermoregulation process, taking the potential of performance from a sound workout to a masterpiece of mind, science and body.

If you are looking to purchase apparel with thermoregulation technology we suggest you visit the Nike website to learn more about their product offerings.

Thank you for taking the time to read our apparel industry blog post. We hope that you have found this news to be informative. If you have comments or questions, please add your thoughts in the discussion area below.

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