European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 90, Issue 3, pp 377–386

Energy balance of human locomotion in water

  • D. Pendergast
  • P. Zamparo
  • P. E. di Prampero
  • C. Capelli
  • P. Cerretelli
  • A. Termin
  • A. CraigJr.
  • D. Bushnell
  • D. Paschke
  • J. Mollendorf
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00421-003-0919-y

Cite this article as:
Pendergast, D., Zamparo, P., di Prampero, P.E. et al. Eur J Appl Physiol (2003) 90: 377. doi:10.1007/s00421-003-0919-y

Abstract

In this paper a complete energy balance for water locomotion is attempted with the aim of comparing different modes of transport in the aquatic environment (swimming underwater with SCUBA diving equipment, swimming at the surface: leg kicking and front crawl, kayaking and rowing). On the basis of the values of metabolic power (Ė), of the power needed to overcome water resistance (d) and of propelling efficiency (ηP=d/tot, wheretot is the total mechanical power) as reported in the literature for each of these forms of locomotion, the energy cost per unit distance (C=Ė/v, where v is the velocity), the drag (performance) efficiency (ηd=d/Ė) and the overall efficiency (ηo=tot/Ė=ηdP) were calculated. As previously found for human locomotion on land, for a given metabolic power (e.g. 0.5 kW=1.43 l·min−1O2) the decrease in C (from 0.88 kJ·m−1 in SCUBA diving to 0.22 kJ·m−1 in rowing) is associated with an increase in the speed of locomotion (from 0.6 m·s−1 in SCUBA diving to 2.4 m·s−1 in rowing). At variance with locomotion on land, however, the decrease in C is associated with an increase, rather than a decrease, of the total mechanical work per unit distance (Wtot, kJ·m−1). This is made possible by the increase of the overall efficiency of locomotiono=tot/Ė=Wtot/C) from the slow speeds (and loads) of swimming to the high speeds (and loads) attainable with hulls and boats (from 0.10 in SCUBA diving to 0.29 in rowing).

Keywords

EconomyEfficiencyKayakingRowingSwimming

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Pendergast
    • 1
  • P. Zamparo
    • 2
  • P. E. di Prampero
    • 2
  • C. Capelli
    • 2
  • P. Cerretelli
    • 3
  • A. Termin
    • 1
  • A. CraigJr.
    • 4
  • D. Bushnell
    • 1
  • D. Paschke
    • 1
  • J. Mollendorf
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Physiology and Mechanical and Aerospace MedicineUniversity at BuffaloBuffaloUSA
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Biomediche and Microgravity, Ageing, Training, Inactivity (MATI), Centre of ExcellenceUniversità degli Studi di Udine UdineItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie BiomedicheUniversità degli Studi di Milano SegrateItaly
  4. 4.Department of Physiology, School of Medicine and DentistryUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA