Work of Breathing During Exercise: Implications for Performance

  • Lee M. RomerEmail author
  • Jerome A. Dempsey


Sustained high-intensity exercise demands time-dependent increases in ventilation and respiratory muscle work. Exercise-induced diaphragmatic fatigue commonly occurs because of a combination of the amount of diaphragmatic work required to support the exercise hyperpnea plus the increased propensity of the diaphragm for fatigue during exercise when it must compete with the locomotor muscles for the available cardiac output. The need for blood flow to be distributed to locomotor and respiratory muscles during whole-body exercise is a major determinant of diaphragmatic fatigue. Exercise-induced diaphragmatic fatigue does not generally result in an inadequate ventilatory response to exercise. Rather, high levels of respiratory muscle work leading to diaphragmatic fatigue were shown to cause sympathetically mediated vasoconstriction of resting limb vasculature and relieving most of this work of breathing during heavy exercise increased limb blood flow, reduced the severity of limb fatigue, and enhanced endurance exercise performance. Whether specific training of the respiratory muscles is sufficient to prevent or delay the activation of respiratory muscle metaboreflexes and blood flow redistribution during dynamic whole-body exercise remains unresolved.


Respiratory Muscle Exercise Performance Muscle Sympathetic Nerve Activity Inspiratory Muscle Heavy Exercise 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Sports Medicine and Human PerformanceBrunel UniversityUxbridgeUK
  2. 2.John Rankin Laboratory of Pulmonary Medicine, Department of Population Health SciencesUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA

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