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This article was originally published as:

Morton, D. P. (2010). Heart rate responses and fluid balance of competitive cross-country hang gliding pilots. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 5(1), 55-63. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.5.1.55

ISSN: 1555-0273


Purpose: To evaluate the physiological challenges of competitive cross-country hang gliding.

Methods: Seventeen experienced male pilots (age = 41 ± 9 y; mean ± SD) were fitted with a monitor that recorded heart rate and altitude at 0.5 Hz throughout a competitive flight. Fluid losses were evaluated by comparing pilot pre- and postflight mass.

Results: The pilots’ displacement was 88.4 ± 43.7 km in 145.5 ± 49.4 min. Mean flight altitude was 1902 ± 427 m (range = 1363–2601 m) with a maximum altitude of 2925 ± 682 m (1870–3831 m). The mean in-flight heart rate of the pilots was 112 ± 11 bpm (64 ± 6% predicted HRmax). For all except one subject, heart rate was highest while launching (165 ± 12 bpm, 93 ± 7% predicted HRmax), followed by landing (154 ± 13 bpm, 87 ± 7% predicted HRmax). No statistically significant relationship was observed between heart rate during the launch and reported measures of state anxiety. Heart rate was inversely related (P < .01) to altitude for all pilots except one. Fluid loss during the flight was 1.32 ± 0.70 L, which approximated 0.55 L/h, while mean in-flight fluid consumption was 0.39 ± 0.44 L. Six pilots consumed no fluid during the flight.

Conclusions: Even among experienced pilots, high heart rates are more a function of state anxiety than physical work demand. Fluid losses during flight are surprisingly moderate but pilots may still benefit from attending to fluid balance.


This article may be accessed from International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance here.