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Study Explains Why Women Get Short Of Breath Faster Than Men During Workout

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It´s widely known that when exercising, women tend to become short of breath more quickly than men. The reason for this is the greater electrical activation that takes place in women´s breathing muscles, making it more difficult for them to breathe while working out.

This has been established during a study conducted by researchers at Canada´s McGill University led by Dr Dennis Jensen. The findings, published in the journal Experimental Physiology, point to women´s smaller lungs, airways and breathing muscles as the reason behind the differences in activity-related breathlessness between the sexes. The greater electrical activation of the respiratory muscles, particularly the diaphragm, helps to compensate for these biological differences, according to the researchers.

The difference was established during an experiment with 50 healthy, non-smoking men and women aged between 20 and 40 years. They were asked to perform a maximum exercise test on a stationary bicycle, during which the researchers examined their cardiovascular, metabolic and ventilator responses to exercise with the help of computerised equipment. The participants were asked to rate from 1 to 10 the intensity of their breathlessness at regular intervals during the exercise and also had an electromyogram of the diaphragm through a multipair electrode catheter placed in their oesophagus. The team then analysed the measurements and made a comparison between the men and women.

The team believes that the findings could help researchers and healthcare providers identify new methods for improving the symptoms of breathlessness and exercise capacity for older people and people with chronic heart and lung disease.