Journal of Applied Physiology

Changes in lung volume and breathing pattern during exercise and CO2 inhalation in humans

E. J. Cha, D. Sedlock, S. M. Yamashiro


Lung volume changes during CO2 inhalation and exercise were compared in seven human subjects. Expiratory reserve volume (ERV) normalized by vital capacity (VC) was used as an index of end-expiratory lung volume (EELV). Work loads tried were 30, 60, and 90 W and inspired CO2 concentrations were 3.5 and 5.0%. Exercise at 30 W led to a significant decrease in EELV, by 7% VC (P less than 0.005), with no further change at higher levels of exercise (P greater than 0.1). Both 3.5 and 5.0% CO2 inhalation resulted in an increase in EELV that was not statistically significant (3% VC, P greater than 0.1). A possible linkage of this different EELV behavior to breathing pattern was tested. The tidal volume-inspiratory duration curve shifted to a higher volume region during exercise compared with CO2 inhalation. Consequently, the volume-time threshold characteristic was better described by an end-inspiratory lung volume-inspiratory duration plot, resulting in a common relationship under these two different stimuli. These results suggest that the depth and rate of breathing in humans can be affected by not only phasic but also tonic components. A decrease in functional residual capacity or EELV was peculiar to exercise and should be associated with increased mechanical efficiency compared with CO2 inhalation. Theoretical predictions based on work of breathing optimization via a decreased EELV seemed to be capable of explaining isocapnic exercise hyperpnea in conjunction with proportional control of arterial CO2 tension.