Study finds men have higher respiration intake than women


February 9, 2015

Topic: female athletes

A recent study by researchers from the University of British Columbia found that men's muscles may have a higher respiration rate than women's, which could answer a few questions related to sports performance and female athletes.

A recent study by researchers from the University of British Columbia found that men's muscles may have a higher respiration rate than women's, which could answer a few questions related to sports performance and female athletes. The findings were published in the Journal of Physiology. 

Making comparisons
The researchers tested their theory by having men and women undergo moderate and intense exercises. They found that during these exercises, the muscles involved in breathing, such as the diaphragm, take in more oxygen in men than women. Though this may make sense, as men are physically bigger than women, it does not fare well for women's muscles. The findings suggest that women spend more energy breathing in as they exercise because their muscles are working harder to take in oxygen.

For years, people have known that adequate amounts of oxygen may be able to maintain a solid sports performance. Oxygen is critical to exercise and is needed by the muscles in order for them to perform and contract properly. Oxygen is also needed by cells to help convert sugars in the body into energy that the body can use during physical activity. If people do not receive the adequate amount of oxygen, the muscles need to work much harder to get the same results and various parts of the body may end up feeling strained, Oxygen Factor stated. 

The study authors came to these conclusions by studying a series of exercise ventilations. At first, they had participants undergo a cycling exercise where they pedaled at an intense rate for an allotted period of time. The researchers were hoping to determine the rate of oxygen going into respiratory muscles as well as the complete oxygen intake of participants who were performing the exercise. In the following days, the researchers had the participants sit on a stationery bike, but did not ask them to perform any workouts. Instead, they recreated the breathing patterns they had the day before during different levels of exercise. For example, the participants may be breathing at a normal rate during mild exercise, but may breathe choppily at an intense rate of cycling. As the people did this, the researchers collected the respiratory rates of oxygen going in and out of the muscles. The researchers hoped that the amount of breathing mimicked by the participants was the same as experienced during exercise. 

An uneven result
The study authors noted that during exercise, people breathe harder, causing the muscles to use more energy to process oxygen. The researchers believe their findings are useful because they suggest that women's muscles need to work significantly harder to get the same effect. The study authors also believe that because of this, women's bodies may need to exert more blood flow to these muscles that are working twice as hard. They noted that a worse performance by women may be the result of less blood flow to large muscles in the body, such as the legs and abdomen. 

The researchers hope to continue their investigation and examine whether these depleted oxygen levels have a significant effect on blood flow, muscle exhaustion and how hard the heart is working. These findings may also have an effect on various types of lung issues, which may be dangerous for women competing in a sport. The results may lead to improved ways to help women perform on the same level as men, and possibly alleviate symptoms female athletes with lung issues experience.  


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