Friday, May 20, 2016

Research on Health Benefits of Ultimate Frisbee

The lead story in American Council on Exercise (ACE) June 2016 magazine is: Can you get fit playing ultimate Frisbee?

The study led by Lance C. Dalleck, Ph.D. was conducted by Western State Colorado University researchers to evaluate the health benefits of ultimate.

tldr: Yes. Playing ultimate is exercise.

Study abstract: The athletic skills involved in ultimate, in addition to the endurance and throwing and catching skills, include agility, speed, coordination and rapid transitions from offense to defense and back again. It is undoubtedly a serious sport featuring impressive levels of athleticism, but does participation yield cardiovascular and metabolic responses that would meet current guidelines for improving and maintaining cardiorespiratory fitness? ACE enlisted the help of Lance Dalleck, Ph.D., and his team of researchers in the Recreation, Exercise, and Sport Science Department at Western State Colorado University to find out.

Study population: 16 healthy and physically active young adults between 18 and 25 years of age to play eight ultimate matches lasting 40 minutes each. Researchers equipped participants with a calorimetric measurement system, a heart rate monitor and a GPS unit to record distance travelled while they played. In addition, peak blood pressure was measured in all participants at the end of the match and then every 30 minutes for the 90 minutes post-exercise.

Study results: The study revealed that ultimate burns an average of 477 calories per match and elicits training benefits similar to those observed with moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise, such as running at five miles per hour. Data showed cardiovascular benefits comparable to traditional interval workouts, as ultimate players regularly switch from full sprints on offense to jogging back to defensive positions. These findings indicate that ultimate, played three times a week, is an excellent tool in meeting the physical activity guidelines recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The published article concludes the following:
One of the most commonly overlooked elements of a fitness program that drives long-term adherence is the fun factor, and ultimate certainly provides more than its fair share of fun. As Dr. Dalleck points out, "participants don't need a high degree of skill to have fun while playing ultimate." Health and fitness professionals and their clients would benefit from the promotion of fitness through play that prevents boredom and elicits meaningful physiological responses in terms of heart rate and energy expenditure—and ultimate Frisbee hits the mark on all counts. Dr. Dalleck reports that the study participants were surprised by the fact that they burned an average of 477 calories during a 40-minute match, which is a great sign that they were enjoying themselves while working hard. And isn't that the ultimate goal?

From the press release:
"We found that playing ultimate offered an effective and natural form of interval training that improved cardiovascular health and lowered post-exercise blood pressure," says American Council on Exercise Chief Science Officer Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D. "In addition, many participants were surprised to learn how many calories they had burned while simply playing."

Read the full published study.

RELATED: Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (December 2015)

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