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Swain Quoted in Wall Street Journal Article Comparing Fitness of Iditarod Sled Dogs to Elite Athletes

The world's longest nonmechanical race, Alaska's Iditarod sled dog race, is under way in the Last Frontier.

The Wall Street Journal wrote a story this week comparing the fitness level of the dogs in that race with the world's top endurance athletes. The headline asks: Are sled dogs the planet's best athletes?

The verdict, from Old Dominion University exercise science professor David Swain? It's no contest.

"Dogs are much better aerobic machines than humans," said Swain, a professor in ODU's exercise science, sport, physical education and recreation department, within the Darden College of Education.

"One, they have four-wheel drive. Since they use all four limbs to run, virtually all their muscle mass is working hard when running, while our upper bodies don't do much when running."

The Wall Street Journal contacted Swain for his expertise in the field of exercise science, specifically the energy expenditure of human athletes.

What WSJ didn't know was that Swain, a dog lover himself, had done similar testing on dogs and exercise back in the 1980s. So he was able to provide the paper precise figures for the difference between the amount of oxygen used in blood per minute (commonly known as VO2 Max) by elite athletes, and by dogs.

According to Swain's research, elite endurance athletes can consume 70 to 80 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight. The average dog uses 110 to 120.

Swain said huskies, the typical sled dog and the breed of his pet, Dakota, aren't typically much more aerobic than other types of dogs that are bred for running. "But they certainly are well adapted for living in the cold," he said. "They have a very dense undercoat to keep them warm while living outdoors in frigid conditions."

The story quoting Swain appeared in Monday's print edition of The Wall Street Journal, and is viewable here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123655651750166135.html.


This article was posted on: March 11, 2009

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