Respiratory muscle energetics during exercise in healthy subjects and patients with COPD

Respir Med. 2006 Nov;100(11):1896-906. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2006.02.030. Epub 2006 May 4.


The energy expenditure required by the respiratory muscles during exercise is a function of their work rate, cost of breathing, and efficiency. During exercise, ventilatory requirements increase further exacerbating the potential imbalance between inspiratory muscle load and capacity. High level of exercise intensity in conjunction with contracting respiratory muscles is the reason for respiratory muscle fatigue in healthy subjects. Available evidence would suggest that fatigue of the diaphragm and other respiratory muscles is an important mechanism involved in redistribution of blood flow. Reflex mechanisms of sympathoexcitation are triggered in fatigued diaphragm during heavy exercise when cardiac output is not sufficient to adequately meet the high metabolic requirements of both respiratory and limb musculature. It is very likely that local changes in locomotor muscle blood flow may occur during exhaustive endurance exercise and that changes may have important effect on O2 transport to the working locomotor muscles and, therefore, on their fatigability. In a condition when the respiratory muscles receive their share of blood flow at the expense of limb locomotor muscles, minimizing mechanical work of breathing and therefore its metabolic cost allows a greater amount of cardiac output to be available to be delivered to working limb muscles. Malfunction in any of the multiple components responsible for circulatory flow and O2 delivery will limit the blood supply therefore inhibiting the supply of O2 and the energy substrate to the contracting muscles. Studies are needed to overcome these limitations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / blood supply
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology
  • Respiration
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology
  • Respiratory Muscles / blood supply
  • Respiratory Muscles / physiology*