European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 101, Issue 6, pp 659–669 | Cite as

Impaired exercise ventilatory mechanics with the self-contained breathing apparatus are improved with heliox

  • Scott J. Butcher
  • Richard L. Jones
  • Jonathan R. Mayne
  • Timothy C. Hartley
  • Stewart R. Petersen
Original Article


The effect of the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) with compressed air (BA-A) on ventilatory mechanics, work of breathing (WOB), pulmonary function, and respiratory muscle fatigue, was compared with that of a low resistance breathing valve (LRV). Further, the effect of unloading the respiratory muscles with heliox with the SCBA (BA-H) was compared with BA-A and LRV. Twelve men completed three randomized exercise trials on separate days, each consisting of three 10 min bouts of stepping exercise (Bouts 1, 2, and 3) separated by a 5 min recovery. Subjects wore firefighter protective equipment including the SCBA. At rest, FEV1 and peak expiratory flow rates were lower with BA-A than with LRV, but were higher with BA-H than either with BA-A or LRV. After Bout 3, expiratory reserve volume, expiratory resistive WOB, and inspiratory elastic WOB were increased in BA-A compared to LRV but these were lower with BA-H compared to BA-A. After Bout 3, maximal inspiratory and expiratory pressures were reduced with BA-A, but not with LRV or BA-H. In summary, we found that the SCBA reduced resting pulmonary function, and increased expiratory reserve volume, work of breathing, and respiratory muscle fatigue during stepping exercise, and these changes can be reduced with the use of heliox.


Respiratory muscle Breathing mechanics Muscle fatigue Aerobic exercise 



Support for this work was provided by the Canadian Forces Fire Marshall, Department of National Defence.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott J. Butcher
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Richard L. Jones
    • 1
  • Jonathan R. Mayne
    • 2
  • Timothy C. Hartley
    • 2
  • Stewart R. Petersen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and DentistryUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of Physical Education and RecreationUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.School of Physical TherapyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

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