Respiratory symptom perception differs in obese women with strong or mild breathlessness during constant-load exercise

Vipa Bernhardt, Tony G. Babb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: During constant-load exercise, some otherwise healthy obese women report substantially more dyspnea on exertion (DOE) than do others. The objective of this study was to investigate whether qualitative differences exist between the sensations of dyspnea felt by these women. Methods: Seventy-eight women were categorized based on their ratings of perceived breathlessness (RPBs) (Borg 0-10 scale) after 6 min of 60-W cycling. Thirty-four women rated RPB ± 4 ( 1 DOE) (34 ± 7 years, 36 ± 5 kg/m2 BMI), and 22 women rated RPB 2 ( 2 DOE) (32 ± 7 years, 37 ± 4 kg/m 2 BMI). Twenty-two women rated RPB as 3 (RPB 5 3) (34 ± 7 years, 34 ± 4 kg/m2 BMI) and were grouped separately to allow for a better delineation of the 1 DOE and the 2 DOE groups. After the exercise test, subjects were asked to pick three of 15 statements that best described their respiratory sensations. Results: The 1 DOE and the 2 DOE groups were characterized differentially ( P , .05) by the respiratory clusters "Breathing more" (82% of 2 DOE vs 41% of 1 DOE), "Shallow" (36% vs 6%), and "Heavy" (14% vs 53%). All four descriptors in the cluster "Work/Effort" were chosen more frequently by women in the 1 DOE group than by women in the 2 DOE group. Although relative exercise intensity was higher in the 1 DOE women (75% ± 13% vs 67% ± 10% of oxygen uptake at peak exercise, 41 ± 10 L/min vs 31 ± 8 L/min as % maximal voluntary ventilation, 83% ± 7% vs 76% ± 7% of peak heart rate), none of these variables was signifi cantly associated with RPB. Conclusions: Not only is the intensity of dyspnea signifi cantly different between the 1 DOE and the 2 DOE groups, but so are the self-reported qualitative aspects of their dyspnea. Women in the 1 DOE group reported an increased sensation of the work of breathing relative to women in the 2 DOE group, which may be associated with the elevated RPB.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-369
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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