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n International SportMed Journal - Physiological and performance responses of elite North African and European endurance runners to a traditional maximal incremental exercise : original research article
Background: A variety of studies have been undertaken on East and South African athletes to identify the factors that underlie the superior performance of African runners. However, the physiological response of North African runners to exercise remains unknown.
Research question: Investigate the physiological response to exercise in North African and European runners.
Type of study: Descriptive study.
Methods: Eight North African and 13 European runners completed a maximal incremental running test, starting at 9 km∙h-1 and speed increased by 1.5 km∙h-1 every 4 minutes, with 1 minute of recovery between workloads. Respiratory parameters were measured and blood lactate concentration and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were assessed.
Results: North African and European runners achieved similar maximal aerobic velocity (MAV) (20.5 ± 1.7 vs. 19.9 ± 1.3 km∙h-1, respectively) and peak treadmill velocity (PTV) (20.8 ± 0.7 vs. 20.7 ± 1.1 km∙h-1). However, MAV was slower than PTV in the European runners (p < 0.05), but not in North Africans. North African runners presented a lower respiratory exchange ratio at 16.5 km∙h-1 (1.03 ± 0.03 vs. 1.07 ± 0.05) and 18 km∙h-1 (1.07 ± 0.03 vs. 1.12 ± 0.06) and a lower RPE at 18 km∙h-1 (3.9 ± 0.8 vs. 5.1 ± 1.2) than the European runners (p < 0.05).
Conclusions: This study provides evidence that North African runners were able to maintain a higher MAV relative to PTV and lower RPE than the European runners. However, the absence of differences in variables such as VO2max or running economy suggest that the success of North African runners cannot be explained by differences in metabolic efficiency.
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