Physiological resolution of periodic breath holding during heavy-intensity Fartlek exercise

A Correction to this article was published on 23 October 2018

This article has been updated



The purpose was to compare the singular and combined effects of 5 s breath holds (BH) and 5 s sprints, every 30 s, during continuous high-intensity exercise, on ventilation (\(\dot {VE}\)), oxygen uptake (\(\dot {V}\)O2) and associated kinetics (τ), carbon dioxide production (\(\dot {V}\)CO2), and arterialized-capillary lactate concentration ([La]).


Ten men (24 ± 3 years) performed 4–6 min ergometer protocols that included a step-transition from 20 W to a power output of 50% of the difference between lactate threshold and \(\dot {V}\)O2 peak (Δ50%) including: (1) a continuous protocol (CONT) with free breathing, (2) an intermittent BH protocol (CONT-BH); repeated cycles of 5 s BH: 25 s free breathing, (3) a Fartlek protocol (Fartlek); repeated 5 s at peak aerobic power output: 25 s at Δ50%; (4) combining the 5 s Fartlek and CONT-BH protocol (Fartlek-BH). Breath-by-breath gas exchange, measured by mass spectrometry and turbine, was recorded.


\(\dot {V}\) E (L min−1) was greater (p < 0.05) than CONT (90 ± 7) in all conditions CONT-BH (98 ± 16), Fartlek (105 ± 10), and Fartlek-BH (101 ± 19). \(\dot {V}\)O2 and \(\dot {V}\)CO2 (L min−1) were unchanged in CONT-BH (2.73 ± 0.14 and 3.16 ± 0.38) and greater in Fartlek (2.85 ± 0.12 and 3.43 ± 0.16), compared to CONT (2.71 ± 0.12 and 3.12 ± 0.13). Whereas, \(\dot {V}\)CO2 during Fartlek-BH was higher (3.28 ± 0.35) and \(\dot {V}\)O2 was unchanged (2.73 ± 0.14). Fartlek-BH resulted in slower \(\dot {V}\)O2 kinetics (62.2 ± 19 s) and greater blood lactate concentrations (11.5 ± 2.7 mM), compared to CONT (48.8 ± 12 s; 9.0 ± 2.3 mM, respectively).


It was demonstrated that the CONT-BH resulted in increased ventilation that sustained \(\dot {V}\)O2. However, \(\dot {V}\)O2 was restricted when an additional work was combined with the BH condition.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Change history

  • 23 October 2018

    The original version of this article unfortunately contained a mistake.



Breath hold

CO2 :

Carbon dioxide


Continuous exercise


Continuous breath hold


Fartlek breath hold

H+ :

Hydrogen ion


Total hemoglobin concentration


Deoxygenated hemoglobin concentration

[HHb]/\(\dot {V}\)O2 :

Adjustment of normalized [HHb]-to-\(\dot {V}\)O2 ratio


Arterialized-capillary lactate concentration


Estimated lactate threshold





N2 :



Near-infrared spectroscopy

O2 :




PCO2 :

Partial pressure of carbon dioxide


End-tidal partial pressure of carbon dioxide

P ETO2 :

End-tidal partial pressure of oxygen


Power output

PO2 :

Partial pressure of oxygen


Revolutions per minute




Standard deviation

S atO2 :

Tissue hemoglobin saturation

τ :

Time constant

\(\dot {V}\)CO2 :

Carbon dioxide production

\(\dot {V}\) E :

Minute ventilation

\(\dot {V}\)O2 :

Oxygen uptake

\(\dot {V}\)O2peak :

Peak oxygen uptake



µ A :

Absorption coefficient

µ S :

Scattering coefficient


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We express our gratitude to the study participants and to Drs J.M. Kowalchuk and D.H. Paterson for access to the cardiorespiratory lab at the University of Western Ontario’s Canadian Center for Activity and Aging research facility. We also extend our gratitude to Prof. P.A. Robbins, University of Oxford, for providing the End-tidal Forcing software for breath-by-breath pulmonary oxygen uptake measurement, and to Brad Hansen for technical expertise.

Author information




GRB and DL conceived and designed the study; GRB, DL, and JK collected and analyzed the data; GRB, DL, and JK interpreted the results and drafted the manuscript; GB and GDM edited the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Glen R. Belfry.

Additional information

The original version of this article was revised: The presentation of the asterisk symbol and symbols denoting the statistical significance in Table 3 was not correct.

Communicated by I. Mark Olfert.

Appendix 1

Appendix 1

See Table 4.

Table 4 Summary of physiological parameters collected during CONT, CONT-BH, Fartlek, and Fartlek-BH

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Lim, D.J., Kim, J.J., Marsh, G.D. et al. Physiological resolution of periodic breath holding during heavy-intensity Fartlek exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 118, 2627–2639 (2018).

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  • O2 uptake
  • Breath holding
  • Muscle deoxygenation
  • Intermittent exercise
  • Swimming
  • Backstroke