Washington: A new study has revealed that women find it harder to breathe than men during exercise because of greater electrical activation of their breathing muscles.
It is well established that women experience greater shortness of breath during physical activity, from stair climbing to long-distance running, than men of a similar age. This is true in healthy young and older adults, as well as in patients with chronic heart and lung disease.
The study's lead author Dr. Dennis Jensen from McGill University, Canada, said that their research uniquely showed that sex differences in activity-related breathlessness could be explained by the awareness of greater electrical activation of the respiratory muscles- specifically the diaphragm- needed to achieve any given ventilation during exercise in healthy young women compared to men.
"Our findings indicated that greater electrical activation of the respiratory muscles during exercise in women is needed to compensate for their biologically smaller lungs, airways and breathing muscles," Jensen said.
This information could be used by researchers and healthcare providers to help identify new treatments to relieve the symptoms of breathlessness and improve exercise capacity for groups such as the elderly and patients with chronic heart and lung disease.
The study is published in journal Experimental Physiology.