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Effects of Altered Airway Function on Exercise Ventilation in Asthmatic Adults


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: June 2014 - Volume 46 - Issue 6 - p 1104–1113
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000206
Basic Sciences

Purpose Variable airway function is a central feature of the asthmatic condition. Thus, habitually active asthmatics are certain to exercise under conditions of variable airway (dys)function. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of variable preexercise airway function on ventilation during whole-body exercise in asthmatic adults.

Methods Eight mild asthmatic (age = 26 yr; V˙O2peak = 49 mL·kg−1·min−1) and nine nonasthmatic (age = 30 yr; V˙O2peak = 46 mL·kg−1·min−1) adults performed constant workrate cycling exercise to exhaustion after four separate interventions: 1) a control trial (CON); 2) inhalation of fast-acting β2-agonist (BD); 3) eucapnic voluntary hyperpnea challenge (BC); and 4) sham to the hyperpnea (SHAM). Pulmonary function was assessed at baseline and after each intervention. Exercise ventilation and operating lung volumes were compared among the four exercise trials in both control and asthmatic subjects.

Results Baseline pulmonary function was significantly lower in asthmatic subjects compared with control subjects. In asthmatic subjects, postintervention (i.e., preexercise) forced expiratory volume 1.0 s was significantly different among the four exercise trials (CON = 3.5 ± 0.4, BD = 4.1 ± 0.4, SHAM = 3.6 ± 0.3, BC = 2.8 ± 0.3 L, P < 0.05), whereas it was not different in control subjects. There were no differences in exercise ventilation or operating lung volumes during exercise among the four trials either within asthmatic subjects or between control and asthmatic subjects.

Conclusions These findings suggest that the state of airway function—whether bronchodilated or bronchoconstricted—before exercise in the mild asthmatic does not affect the exercise ventilatory response. Thus, ventilatory system function in the asthmatic appears to be responsive to the acute requirement for increased airflow during whole-body exercise.

Department of Environmental and Health Sciences, Johnson State College, Johnson, VT

Address for correspondence: Hans Christian Haverkamp, Ph.D., Johnson State College, Johnson, VT, 337 College Hill Road, Johnson, VT 05656; E-mail:

Submitted for publication May 2013.

Accepted for publication October 2013.

© 2014 American College of Sports Medicine