Ventilatory response to rowing and cycling in elite oarswomen

S. E. Szal, R. B. Schoene

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28 Scopus citations


Rowing is a unique exercise for humans, and the imposed biomechanical motion may alter both respiratory mechanics and timing. To investigate the ventilatory patterns of competitive rowers while rowing, we studied the pulmonary function of eight members of the University of Washington Women's Crew and one former member of the 1984 Women's Olympic Rowing Team on a rowing ergometer. Ventilatory performance of the oarswomen was compared both with their performance to exhaustion on a cycle ergometer and with the ventilatory response of six untrained controls on a rowing and a cycle ergometer. We found rowing elicited a higher ventilatory response in both the oarswomen and controls in submaximal and maximal work loads (P < 0.001). Both oarswomen and controls had higher maximal breathing frequencies when rowing compared with cycling [rowers, 54.7 ± 1.9 vs. 49.8 ± 0.09 (SE) breaths/min, P < 0.05; and controls, 53.6 ± 2.5 vs. 49.2 ± 4.7, P < 0.05] and lower maximal tidal volumes (rowers, 1.94 ± 0.12 vs. 2.21 ± 0.09 liters, P < 0.01; controls, 1.59 ± 0.09 vs. 1.68 ± 0.19, difference not significant). Both oarswomen and controls were more hypocapnic while rowing compared with cycling (rowers, P < 0.001; controls, P < 0.02), although oarswomen were less hypocapnic while rowing than nonrowers (P < 0.03). These results indicate that rowing causes hyperventilation with a higher breathing frequency and lower tidal volume. This alteration of pattern is possibly secondary to a change in mechanics, which possibly arises from the generation of high exercise ventilation in a variable seated position.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)264-269
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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