Influence of work rate incremental rate on the exercise responses in patients with COPD

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Aug;32(8):1365-8. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200008000-00001.


Purpose: The peak work rate (Wpeak) measured during a progressive stepwise exercise test is commonly used to select the target training intensity for an exercise training program. In healthy subjects, a greater Wpeak is achieved when a faster rate of increase in work rate is used, whereas VO2 peak is independent of the rate of increase in work rate. This effect might be even more pronounced in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients, in whom the VO2 kinetics during exercise are slower compared with healthy subjects.

Methods: To investigate this, we studied 10 COPD patients (9 M/1 F, age: 65+/-5 yr [mean +/- SD], FEV1: 33+/-8%). They underwent, on separate days, three stepwise exercise tests on an ergocycle. For each test, increments of 5, 10, or 20 W x min(-1) were used in random order; the investigator was blinded as to which increment was used. VO2, VCO2, heart rate (HR), minute ventilation (VE), breathlessness and leg fatigue at rest, at each work rate, and at maximal capacity were obtained.

Results: Wpeak averaged 40+/-13, 53+/-14, and 66+/-19 W for the 5-, 10-, and 20-W protocol, respectively (P < 0.001), whereas VO2 peak was comparable at 0.96+/-0.16, 1.02+/-0.18, and 1.03+/-0.20 L x min(-1). As the rate of increase in work rate became faster, the VO2/work rate relationship shifted to the right. This is exemplified by the VO2 at 40 W, which averaged 0.98+/-0.06, 0.90+/-0.09, and 0.83+/-0.10 L x min(-1) for the 5-, 10-, and 20-W protocol, respectively (P < 0.05). Similar observations were made for the relationship between HR, VE, and symptom scores, and work rate. There was no significant differences in peak values for HR and VE, and symptoms scores.

Conclusions: We conclude that the work rate incremental rate influences the Wpeak achieved, whereas the peak values for VO2, HR, VE, and symptom scores remain comparable. These findings have practical implications for the exercise evaluation of patients with COPD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Aged
  • Exercise Test*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange / physiology