The recent boom of aquatic therapy programs explore the use of water exercise for cardiorespiratory fitness and rehabilitation. However, traditional methods such as heart rate (HR) may not accurately reflect the amount of work done in the water, and may over prescribe intensities. The purpose of this study was to compare HR differences between running on a treadmill and in deep water at a constant rating of perceived exertion (RPE). Twenty-four subjects were tested on a treadmill and in deep water at RPE-15 (Hard). The differences were statistically analyzed through the use of a repeated measures ANOVA. Results revealed that there was a significant decrease in HR (18.2 beats/min-1) for the water mode compared to the treadmill (p > 0.01). There was no significant difference between RPE for the two modes (p >0.01). The results of this study support the need for caution in prescribing target HR zones for aquatic exercise from land HR values. The differences between the two modes may be attributed to the physical properties of water. RPE seemed to provide an excellent alternative for HR measurement as it was easy for the subjects to learn and appeared to be reliable and reproducible.
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