Drive (or ATV) your way to fitness


As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)


A few eyebrows were raised when NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson was named AP Athlete of the Year last month. Johnson defended his athleticism, saying:

So to anyone who wants to go head-to-head with me in athletic ability, let’s go. I talked a lot with Jason Sehorn about this, and I don’t know how exactly you measure athletic ability, but I know my five-mile run time [of 34 minutes, 55 seconds] will destroy most NFL players.

Anyway, that debate popped to mind when I noticed this paper among the list accepted for future publication in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: “The Physiological Demands of Off-Road Vehicle Riding.” Researchers measured strength and oxygen consumption of 56 ATV drivers and 72 off-road motorcyclists during a 48-minute ride. They found that ATV drivers were breathing hard enough to indicate they were getting a workout about 14% of the time; the motorcyclists were puffing 38% of the time. Also, their muscles got tired, particularly in the upper body. The conclusion:

Based on the measured metabolic demands, evidence of muscular strength requirements, and the associated caloric expenditures with off-road vehicle riding, this alternative form of activity conforms to recommended physical activity guidelines and could be effective for achieving beneficial changes in health and fitness.

What to say about this? Well, given that one of the other papers accepted was yet another examination of whether active video games count as exercise, at least the ATVers are getting outside for their “exercise”!

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