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A Comparison of upper and lower limb exercise in canoeists using the heart rate and oxygen consumption relationship

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The heart rate achieved with maximal upper limb exercise is quoted as being on average thirteen beats per minute lower than when performing maximal leg exercise. Many canoeists use heart rate monitors during training and seek advice on setting their heart rate training zones. Existing guidelines are based on lower limb-derived heart rates, which may not be appropriate. As canoeists use predominantly their upper limbs during canoeing, it was hypothesized that as their upper limbs are trained, they may achieve heart rates and oxygen consumption similar to those achieved with lower limb exercise. The purpose of this investigation was to compare the relationship between heart rate and oxygen consumption when exercising on either a kayak ergometer or treadmill. Fifteen volunteer canoeists, who compete regularly, were recruited by convenience, purposive sampling and randomly allocated to a V02max test using open circuit spirometry, on either a kayak ergometer or treadmill. They returned within 5 to 7 days for a V02max test on the other apparatus. Their heart rates were also measured during these activities. The heart rate oxygen consumption relationship for upper and lower limb exercise was then analysed. Maximum heart rate was on average only 6 beats per minute lower with upper limb exercise, with some subjects achieving the same or very similar HRmax; the median difference in heart rate maximum was only 4 beats per minute. Although the response of heart rate and oxygen consumption to kayaking and running was similar at any given workload, the heart rate on the kayak was about 8 beats per minute higher at any submaximal workload. V02max. on the kayak was lower than on the treadmill. At any metabolic equivalent, the tidal volume was lower on the kayak and there was a lower respiratory rate on the treadmill. At any tidal volume, the metabolic equivalent was lower on the kayak ergometer. The minute volume on the kayak was higher than on the treadmill, for all but the highest intensities of exercise. Using the leg heart rate max to determine the training zones, a slightly higher (negligible) percentage of arm V0max is achieved at any given percentage heart rate. Kayakers who train regularly, appear to be able to attain similar maximum heart rates with upper and lower limb exercise, but a lower V02max when exercising with their arms. The heart rate oxygen consumption response is the same for upper and lower body exercise; and a reduced HRmax and increased heart rate at any sub maximal workload do not appear to apply to canoeists. It is therefore concluded that heart rate training zones based on leg HRmax are suitable for kayak training. This study has helped distinguish the difference between the heart rates of the upper and lower limbs at any given oxygen consumption in canoeists. The benefits of performing this study have also been to provide better advice to canoeists on how to train using heart rate monitors.


Thesis (M.Med.Sc.)-University of Natal, Durban, 2003.


Exercise--Physiological aspects., Physical fitness., Kayaking., Treadmill exercise tests., Theses--Sports medicine.