The Effect of Shaving Body Hair on the Physiological Cost of Freestyle Swimming

J Swim Res. 1988 Winter;4(1):9-13.


The purpose of this study was to determine if shaving of body hair would have an effect on the physiological cost of standard swimming velocities. Physiological effort required to swim at a given velocity was assessed using determinations of blood lactate concentration 2 min after each of four 200 yard freestyle swims. Six subjects volunteered and were asked to swim four 200's with 15 min rest between each and reducing their time by roughly 10 sec on each consecutive swim. On the next day, subjects shaved their body hair from arms, legs and exposed torso and repeated this swimming protocol. Blood lactate accumulation at a submaximal speed of 1.08 m/sec was significantly reduced by an average of 28% by shaving. Blood lactate accumulation at a maximal swimming speed of 1.30 m/sec was significantly reduced by an average of 23%. This much change in the physiological cost of submaximal and maximal swimming speeds is nearly as great as that resulting from a season of collegiate swimming training. It was1 concluded that there is indeed a physical benefit to shaving-down (most likely a reduction in body drag) and that the benefits are not solely due to a psychological response.