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Journal Article


Schnitzler C, Button C, Seifert L, Armbrust G, Croft JL. Scand. J. Med. Sci. Sports 2018; 28(3): 928-938.


Centre of Exercise and Sports Science Research, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia.


(Copyright © 2018, John Wiley and Sons)






PURPOSE: Aquatic survival skills may be compromised in cold water thereby increasing the likelihood of drowning. This study compared physiological, psychological, and behavioural responses of humans treading water and swimming in cold and temperate water.

METHODS: Thirty-eight participants were classified as inexperienced (n=9), recreational (n=15), or skilled (n=10) swimmers. They performed three tasks: treading water (120 s), swim at "comfortable" pace, and swim at "fast" pace in two water conditions (28 °C vs 10 °C). Heart rate, oxygen uptake, psychometric variables, spatio-temporal (swim speed, stroke rate, stroke length), and coordination type were examined as a function of expertise.

RESULTS: Tasks performed in cold water generated higher cardio-respiratory responses (HR = 145±16 vs 127±21 bpm) and were perceived about two points more strenuous on the Borg scale on average (RPE= 14.9±2.8 vs 13.0±2.0). The voluntary durations of both treading water (60±32 vs 91±33s) and swimming at a comfortable pace (66±22 vs 103±34s) were significantly reduced in cold water. However, no systematic changes in movement pattern type could be determined in either the treading water task or the swimming tasks.

CONCLUSION: Water temperature influences the physical demands of these aquatic skills but not necessarily the behaviour. Training treading water and swimming skills in temperate water seems to transfer to cold water, but we recommend training these skills in a range of water conditions to help adapt to the initial 'cold-shock' response. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Language: en


aquatic skills; cold-shock response; motor behaviour; water temperature


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