The elevation gain is an important contributor to the total workload in endurance sports. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the influence of the arm swing on elevation gain in three sport watches (Garmin® Forerunner 910XT, Polar® RS800CX and Suunto® Ambit2) on a flat 400 m outdoor track. Altogether, a total of 120 repetitions of 1,200 m were performed at self-selected speeds corresponding to strolling, walking, jogging and running. During the assessment two devices of each sport watch, one secured on the hip and one on the wrist, were worn by the participants. A small but significant (effect size = .39; p < .001) influence of the arm swing on elevation was revealed in all sport watches. Elevation indication errors recorded on the wrist were significantly larger than the ones recorded on the hip (4.0-7.4 vs. 1.2-5.7 m per 1,200 m; p < .05). Furthermore, when wearing the devices on the wrist, errors in elevation indication increased when gait speed increased. Users should be aware that wearing the devices on the hip can significantly decrease measurement errors. This might be especially relevant for activities with high dynamics, such as jogging and running.
Keywords: change in altitude; running; workload.