The limit to exercise tolerance in humans: mind over muscle?
- 3.7k Downloads
In exercise physiology, it has been traditionally assumed that high-intensity aerobic exercise stops at the point commonly called exhaustion because fatigued subjects are no longer able to generate the power output required by the task despite their maximal voluntary effort. We tested the validity of this assumption by measuring maximal voluntary cycling power before (mean ± SD, 1,075 ± 214 W) and immediately after (731 ± 206 W) (P < 0.001) exhaustive cycling exercise at 242 ± 24 W (80% of peak aerobic power measured during a preliminary incremental exercise test) in ten fit male human subjects. Perceived exertion during exhaustive cycling exercise was strongly correlated (r = −0.82, P = 0.003) with time to exhaustion (10.5 ± 2.1 min). These results challenge the long-standing assumption that muscle fatigue causes exhaustion during high-intensity aerobic exercise, and suggest that exercise tolerance in highly motivated subjects is ultimately limited by perception of effort.
KeywordsMuscle fatigue Exercise tolerance Performance Perceived exertion Muscle power Motivation Effort
The authors are grateful to all participants for their effort during testing, to Mr. Kevin Williams for technical assistance, and to Mr. Gethin Wyn Francis for assistance with subject recruitment and testing. Funding for this study was provided by the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences, Bangor University.
Conflict of interest statement
- Borg GA (1998) Borg’s perceived exertion and pain scales. Human Kinetics, ChampaignGoogle Scholar
- Nakamura FY, Okuno NM, Perandini LA, S Caldeira LF, Simoes HG, Cardoso JR, Bishop DJ (2008) Critical power can be estimated from nonexhaustive tests based on rating of perceived exertion responses. J Strength Cond Res 22(3):937–943Google Scholar
- Newman AB, Simonsick EM, Naydeck BL, Boudreau RM, Kritchevsky SB, Nevitt MC, Pahor M, Satterfield S, Brach JS, Studenski SA et al (2006) Association of long-distance corridor walk performance with mortality, cardiovascular disease, mobility limitation, and disability. JAMA 295(17):2018–2026CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Noakes TD (2008) RPE as a predictor of the duration of exercise that remains until exhaustion. Br J Sports Med. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2007.043612
- Noble BJ, Robertson RJ (1996) Perceived exertion. Human Kinetics, ChampaignGoogle Scholar
- Wittekind AL, Micklewright D, Beneke R (2009) Teleoanticipation in all-out short duration cycling. Br J Sports Med. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2009.061580
- Wright RA (1998) Ability perception and cardiovascular response to behavioral challenge. In: Kofka M, Weary G, Sedek G (eds) Personal control in action: cognitive and motivational mechanisms. Guilford, New York, pp 197–232Google Scholar
- Yano T, Yunoki T, Ogata H (2001) Relationship between the slow component of oxygen uptake and the potential reduction in maximal power output during constant-load exercise. J Sports Med Phys Fit 41(2):165–169Google Scholar