Pulmonary gas exchange and breathing pattern during and after exercise in highly trained athletes

Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1993;67(5):431-7. doi: 10.1007/BF00376460.


Highly trained athletes (HT) have been found to show arterial hypoxaemia during strenuous exercise. A lack of compensatory hyperpnoea and/or a limitation of pulmonary diffusion by pulmonary interstitial oedema have been suggested as causes, but the exact role of each is not clear. It is known, however, that interstitial pulmonary oedema may result in rapid shallow breathing (RSB). The purpose of this study was therefore twofold: firstly, to determine the exact role of a lack of compensatory hyperpnoea versus a widened in ideal alveolar minus arterial oxygen partial pressure difference [PA(i)-aO2] in the decrease in partial pressure of oxygen in arterial blood (PaO2) and, secondly, to detect RSB during recovery in HT. Untrained subjects (UT) and HT performed exhausting incremental exercise. During rest, exercise testing, and recovery, breathing pattern, respiratory gas exchange, and arterial blood gases were measured. The PA(i)-aO2 and the difference in tidal volume (VT) between exercise and recovery for the same level of ventilation, normalized to vital capacity of the subject [delta VT(%VC)], were then calculated. A large positive delta VT(%VC) was considered to be the sign of RSB. HT showed a marked hypoxaemia (F = 11.6, P < 0.0001), higher partial pressure of carbon dioxide in arterial blood (F = 3.51, P < 0.05), and lower ideal partial pressure of oxygen in alveolar gas (P < 0.001). The relationship between PA(i)-aO2 and oxygen consumption was the same for the two groups. The widening PA(i)-aO2 persisted throughout recovery for both HT and UT. The RSB was observed in HT during recovery.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carbon Dioxide / blood
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Pulmonary Edema / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange / physiology*
  • Respiration / physiology*
  • Tidal Volume / physiology


  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Oxygen