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Physiological Adaptation in Noncompetitive Rock Climbers: Good for Aerobic Fitness?

Rodio, Angelo1; Fattorini, Luigi2; Rosponi, Alessandro2; Quattrini, Filippo M1; Marchetti, Marco2

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: March 2008 - Volume 22 - Issue 2 - p 359-364
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181635cd0
Original Research

The present investigation aimed to establish whether noncompetitive rock climbing fulfills sports medicine recommendations for maintaining a good level of aerobic fitness. The physiological profile of 13 rock climbers, 8 men (age, 43 ± 8 years) and 5 women (age, 31 ± 8 years) was assessed by means of laboratory tests. Maximal aerobic power (o2peak) and ventilatory threshold (VT) were assessed using a cycloergometer incremental test. During outdoor rock face climbing, o2 and heart rate (HR) were measured with a portable metabolimeter and the relative steady-state values (o2 and HR during rock climbing) were computed. Blood lactate was measured during recovery. All data are presented as mean ± SD. o2peak was 39.1 ± 4.3 mL·kg−1·min−1 in men and 39.7 ± 5 mL·kg−1·min−1 in women, while VT was 29.4 ± 3.0 mL·kg−1·min−1 in men and 28.8 ± 4.6 mL·kg−1·min−1 in women. The o2 during rock climbing was 28.3 ± 1.5 mL·kg−1·min−1 in men and 27.5 ± 3.7 mL·kg−1·min−1 in women. The HR during rock climbing was 144 ± 16 b·min−1 in men and 164 ± 13 b·min−1 in women. The aerobic profile was classified from excellent to superior in accordance with the standards of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The exercise intensity (o2 during rock climbing expressed as a percentage of o2peak) was 70 ± 6% in men and 72 ± 8% in women. Moreover, the energy expenditure was 1000-1500 kcal per week. In conclusion, noncompetitive rock climbing has proved to be a typical aerobic activity. The intensity of exercise is comparable to that recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine to maintain good cardiorespiratory fitness.

1Motor Science and Health Department, Motor Science Faculty, University of Cassino, Cassino, Italy; 2School of Specialization in Sport Medicine, Department of Human Physiology and Pharmacology, Sapienza Università di Roma, Rome, Italy

Address correspondence to Angelo Rodio,

© 2008 National Strength and Conditioning Association