The influence of heat on the occurrence of exercise associated muscle cramps: a review

W Schallig, Koen Levels, H.A.M. Daanen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


The occurrence of exercise associated muscle cramps can be detrimental for exercise performance and there is controversy about its relation to exercise in the heat. The purpose of this study is therefore to review the influence of exercising in the heat on the occurrence of cramps. There are three main theories for the development of cramps during exercise: dehydration, electrolyte depletion and altered neuromuscular control. Muscle cramps can be divided into two categories: fatigue-induced and heat-related. Fatigue-induced cramps can be explained by solely muscle fatigue which causes reduced neuromuscular control. Heat-related cramps are a result of muscle fatigue combined with fluid and electrolyte loss due to sweating. Heat results in more muscle fatigue and therefore an altered neuromuscular control. Moreover, heat will result in a higher sweat rate and sweat sodium concentration. Taken together, these heat-associated adaptations are likely to influence the occurrence of both fatigue-induced and heat-related muscle cramps.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-39
Number of pages10
JournalSport en Geneeskunde
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Exercise
  • Muscle cramping
  • hot environment
  • neuromuscular control

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