This study evaluated whether the heart rate (HR) response to exercise depends on body position and on the active muscle mass. The HR response to ergometer rowing (sitting and using both arms and legs) was compared to treadmill running (upright exercise involving mainly the legs) using a progressive exercise intensity protocol in 55 healthy men [mean (SD) height 176 (5) cm, body mass 71 (6) kg, age 21 (3) years]. During rowing HR was lower than during running at a blood lactate concentration of 2 mmol·l-1 [145 (13) compared to 150 (11) beat·min-1, P < 0.05], 4 mmol·l-1 [170 (10) compared to 177 (13) beat·min -1, P < 0.05], and 6 mmol·l-1 [182 (10) compared to 188 (10) beat·min-1, P < 0.05]. Also during maximal intensity rowing, HR was lower than during maximal intensity running [194 (9) compared to 198 (11) beat·min-1, P < 0.05]. These results were accompanied by a higher maximal oxygen uptake during rowing than during running [rowing compared to running, 4.50 (0.5) and 4.35 (0.4) l·min -1, respectively, P < 0.01]. Thus, the oxygen pulse, as an index of the stroke volume of the heart, was higher during rowing than during running at any given intensity. The results suggest that compared to running, the seated position and/or the involvement of more muscles during rowing facilitate venous return and elicit a smaller HR response for the same relative exercise intensity.
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