The Respiratory Exchange Ratio is Associated with Fitness Indicators Both in Trained and Untrained Men: A Possible Application for People with Reduced Exercise Tolerance

Clin Med Circ Respirat Pulm Med. 2008 Feb 1:2:1-9. doi: 10.4137/ccrpm.s449.


Background: The respiratory exchange ratio (RER) indirectly shows the muscle's oxidative capacity to get energy. Sedentarism, exercise and physically active lifestyles modify it. For that reason, this study evaluates the associations between RER during sub-maximum exercise and other well established fitness indicators (body fat, maximum heart rate, maximum O(2) uptake, workload, and lactate threshold), in physically active trained and untrained men.

Methods: The RER, O(2) uptake and blood lactate were measured in eight endurance trained and eight untrained men (age, 22.9 ± 4.5 vs. 21.9 ± 2.8 years; body mass, 67.1 ± 5.4 vs. 72.2 ± 7.7 kg; body fat, 10.6 ± 2.4% vs. 16.6 ± 3.8% and maximum O(2) uptake, 68.9 ± 6.3 vs. 51.6 ± 5.8 ml•kg(-1)•min(-1)), during maximum exercise test and during three different sub-maximum exercises at fixed workload: below, within or above the lactate threshold.

Results: Endurance trained men presented higher O(2) uptake, lower blood lactate concentrations and lower RER values than those in untrained men at the three similar relative workloads. Even though with these differences in RER, a strong association (p < 0.05) of RER during sub-maximum exercise with the other well established fitness indicators was observed, and both maximum O(2) uptake and lactate threshold determined more than 57% of its variance (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: These data demonstrate that RER measurement under sub-maximum exercise conditions was well correlated with other established physical fitness indicators, despite training condition. Furthermore, the results suggest that RER could help obtain an easy approach of fitness status under low exercise intensity and could be utilized in subjects with reduced exercise tolerance.

Keywords: anaerobic threshold; oxidative metabolism; physiological steady state.