Laboratory and Field Based Assessment of Maximal Aerobic Power of Elite Stand-Up Paddleboard Athletes

Friday, June 09, 2017

Ben Schram, Wayne Hing, and Mike Climstein

Purpose: Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is a rapidly growing sport and recreational activity for which only anecdotal evidence exists on its proposed health, fitness, and injury-rehabilitation benefits.

Participants: 10 internationally and nationally ranked elite SUP athletes. 

Methods: Participants were assessed for their maximal aerobic power on an ergometer in a laboratory and compared with other water-based athletes. Field-based assessments were subsequently performed using a portable gas-analysis system, and a correlation between the 2 measures was performed.

Results: Maximal aerobic power (relative) was significantly higher (P = .037) when measured in the field with a portable gas-analysis system (45.48 ± 6.96 mL · kg–1 · min–1) than with laboratory-based metabolic-cart measurements (43.20 ± 6.67 mL · kg–1 · min–1). There was a strong, positive correlation (r =.907) between laboratory and field maximal aerobic power results. Significantly higher (P = .000) measures of SUP paddling  speed were found in the field than with the laboratory ergometer (+42.39%). There were no significant differences in maximal  heart rate between the laboratory and field settings (P = .576). 

Conclusion: The results demonstrate the maximal aerobic power representative of internationally and nationally ranked SUP athletes and show that SUP athletes can be assessed for maximal  aerobic power in the laboratory with high correlation to field-based measures. The field-based portable gas-analysis unit has a tendency to consistently measure higher oxygen consumption. Elite SUP athletes display aerobic power outputs similar to those of other upper-limb-dominant elite water-based athletes (surfing, dragon-boat racing, and canoeing). 

Keywords: profiling, water, sports, aquatic, paddle boarding, SUP

Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is a new sport and recreational activity, which is increasing in popularity around the world due to its proposed health and fitness benefits and enjoyment.1 SUP is a hybrid of surfing and paddling in which participants can either distance paddle and/or surf waves.2 Many Web sites anecdotally advocate SUP to increase strength, fitness, core stability, and balance and decrease back pain. However, our recent review of the literature using the search terms SUP, stand up paddle boarding, and stand up paddle of CINAHL, SPORTDiscus, EMBASE, and MEDLINE found no scientific evidence to substantiate these proposed benefits. An ideal physiological test accurately and reliably assesses the specific energy systems of the musculature involved in a particular sport.3 To adhere to the principle of specificity, in addition to laboratory testing, field testing for aerobic power on a stand-up paddle board is highly desirable. This allows comparison between testing in a laboratory under tightly controlled conditions and actual SUP performance on water.

Recent advances in technology have allowed for more compact, light-weight, and ambulatory pulmonary gas analysis (Cosmed K4b2, Rome, Italy). The development of such systems has allowed field testing to gain a greater understanding of the metabolic demands during various modes and intensities of exercise in the environment in which they are normally performed.4 An indication of the aerobic capacity of elite SUP athletes provides a guideline for an individual wanting to succeed in competitive SUP. The measurement of aerobic fitness of internationally and nationally ranked SUP athletes has yet to be quantified, leaving a gap in the scientific literature. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to assess internationally and nationally ranked SUP athletes in the laboratory under tightly controlled conditions and then compare the result with a field-based assessment with a portable gas-analysis system.


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