Science Portugal , Castelo Branco, Thursday, May 28 of 2015, 14:05

The Universidad de Beira Interior is studying how to improve swimmers' performance

A software simulates the behaviour of the human body in the water and helps to improve the techniques and the design of sportswear and sports accessories

José Pichel Andrés/DICYT The Sports Science Department of the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences of the Universidad de Beira Interior is studying the factors that determine sporting performance by using software that simulates the behaviour of the human body in sports such as swimming. The researchers' work allows companies to design better sportswear and sports accessories and competitors to improve their style.

Daniel Almeida Marinho, a lecturer of the Universidad de Beira Interior who is working on this area of research, has thrown himself into the study of swimming out of personal interest as he has been a swimmer and swimming trainer. This sport “involves special adaptations due to the particular characteristics of the aquatic medium”.

His studies are essentially based on the computational dynamics of fluids, “a software tool that is used to simulate the behaviour of a fluid such as air or water around physical structures such as the human body or sporting equipment”, he explained to DiCYT.

On analysing the pressure or the flow velocity at a given point scientists can obtain valuable information. “This allows us to understand the intensity of hydrodynamic resistance during swimming and the influence of swimsuits, goggles, or caps”, the expert comments.

Likewise it allows us to understand how different swimming positions can improve the swimmer's propulsive force, for example the position of his/her hands. In a swimming experiment turns are also determinant for maximising swimming speed. All this work is carried out “without changing the swimmer's training because the tests are carried out thanks to computing in a virtual environment”, the researcher emphasises.

Information for the sportsman/sportswoman

“We aim to provide specific information on sporting technique, in particular on changes that may affect performance”, Daniel Almeida Marinho points out, “together with information on training methods and recovery from sport”.

In the same way the computational dynamics of fluids are also useful in other sports. For example, they allow the analysis of a cyclist's position on his/her bicycle and the use of various accessories for this sport such as helmets.


A very important aspect of this research is that it permits the introduction of innovations onto the market in collaboration with companies. To return to the water, one of these can be found in the field of sports craft and to achieve this the Sports Science Department is collaborating with the Nelo Kayaks company, the market leader in the development and marketing of rowboats and canoes.

Other studies in connection with the productive economy concentrate on the various swimsuits used by swimmers to find out which is the most suitable for each individual. In this way the researchers of the Universidad de Beira Interior are encouraging the technical development of a brand that cannot yet be revealed as the work has not been completed. Hydrodynamic data can be used “to develop more efficient equipment that offers less resistance and helps to increase the athlete's propulsive force", the researcher points out.