No effect of elevated operating lung volumes on airway function during variable workrate exercise in asthmatic humans

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2016 Jul 1;121(1):89-100. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00538.2015. Epub 2016 May 5.


In asthmatic adults, airway caliber fluctuates during variable intensity exercise such that bronchodilation (BD) occurs with increased workrate whereas bronchoconstriction (BC) occurs with decreased workrate. We hypothesized that increased lung mechanical stretch would prevent BC during such variable workrate exercise. Ten asthmatic and ten nonasthmatic subjects completed two exercise trials on a cycle ergometer. Both trials included a 28-min exercise bout consisting of alternating four min periods at workloads equal to 40 % (Low) and 70% (High) peak power output. During one trial, subjects breathed spontaneously throughout exercise (SVT), such that tidal volume (VT) and end-inspiratory lung volume (EILV) were increased by 0.5 and 0.6 liters during the high compared with the low workload in nonasthmatic and asthmatic subjects, respectively. During the second trial (MVT), VT and EILV were maintained constant when transitioning from the high to the low workload. Forced exhalations from total lung capacity were performed during each exercise workload. In asthmatic subjects, forced expiratory volume 1.0 s (FEV1.0) increased and decreased with the increases and decreases in workrate during both SVT (Low, 3.3 ± 0.3 liters; High, 3.6 ± 0.2 liters; P < 0.05) and MVT (Low, 3.3 ± 0.3 liters; High, 3.5 ± 0.2 liters; P < 0.05). Thus increased lung stretch during MVT did not prevent decreases in airway caliber when workload was reduced. We conclude that neural factors controlling airway smooth muscle (ASM) contractile activity during whole body exercise are more robust determinants of airway caliber than the ability of lung stretch to alter ASM actin-myosin binding and contraction.

Keywords: airway caliber; asthma; bronchodilation; exercise; lung stretch.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Bronchoconstriction / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test / methods
  • Exhalation / physiology
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiopathology*
  • Lung Volume Measurements / methods
  • Male
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiopathology
  • Tidal Volume / physiology*
  • Vital Capacity / physiology
  • Young Adult