McKenzie Snustead1, John P. Porcari1, Kathryn Johnson1, Scott Doberstein1, Kari Emineth1, Carl Foster1A Comparison of the Submaximal and Maximal Cardiorespiratory Responses to Aquatic vs. Land Cycling1Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La Crosse, WI, USA.


Introduction: Aquatic cycling has gained in popularity in recent years. There are inconsistencies in the literature regarding the submaximal and maximal HR and VO2 responses to water-based vs. land-based cycling. Differences in these values could have an impact on exercise prescription in the two environments. Purpose: To compare submaximal and maximal HR and VO2 between land and water exercise, as well as their impact on calculated relative exercise intensity. Methods: Sixteen healthy, active college-aged students completed two maximal cycling tests, one in the water and one on land. HR, VO2, and ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) were assessed during both tests. Results: Heart rate and VO2 were blunted in a linear fashion all the way up to and including maximal exertion during aquatic cycling compared to land-based cycling. Maximal HR was 14 bpm lower in water compared to on land and VO2 was 12% lower in water compared to on land. There was no difference in relative exercise intensity (%HRR and %VO2R) at any RPE level. Conclusion: Even though absolute HR and VO2 were lower at all levels of exercise, at a given RPE subjects were working at the same relative intensity on land and in the water and should reap similar benefits.