Saturday, December 10, 2016

Effects of Lung Disorders on Physical Activity

When exercising, there are plenty of external factors that can hinder a person’s performance such as: extreme temperature, high elevation, or other environmental conditions. There are also internal physiological factors that can limit a person’s physical activity due to respiratory problems caused by genetic factors, or certain life choices such as smoking. The genetic problem would be asthma (exercise induced or bronchial), and the other disorders are chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.
Emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and bronchial asthma are collectively called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD). COPD results in obstruction of the airway and is non-reversible. Chronic bronchitis is a lung disorder in which mucus production is constant, resulting in chronically obstructed airways. Emphysema causes an airway collapse and increased airway resistance due to decreased elastic support of the airway.1 An individual with COPD has a hard time performing normal everyday activities without getting tired quickly. The increased amount of work on the respiratory muscles for ventilation are one of the causes of this problem.

COPD is characterized by the decreased ability to exhale1, which contributes to poor oxygen perfusion. The decreased ability to exhale properly and airway obstruction, leads to a higher breathing frequency while there is a lower ventilatory capacity. These disorders contribute to the patient’s dyspnea (difficulty breathing).
The hyperinflation of the lungs causes the individual to not be able to catch their breath properly and the high respiratory rate can cause the person to have anxiety. The individual who cannot catch their breath will start to worry about not being able to breath properly, making the situation even worse. This can usually be subsided by breathing techniques such as pursed lip breathing.
With all the work being done by the body, (physical activity and the act of trying to regulate normal breathing), there are energy demands that need to be met. The improper perfusion of oxygen in the pulmonary system means less oxygen going to the muscles, which results in fatigue. This is happening in the skeletal muscles trying to move the body, and the respiratory muscles that are contributing to ventilation.
The onset of labored breathing caused by COPD during physical activity causes the start of factors that impede normal breathing and create a snowball effect of problems. The disorder causes labored breathing and the decreased ability to exhale and a decrease in oxygen perfusion. This can lead to anxiety and even more labored breathing. The decrease in oxygen perfusion caused fatigue in the skeletal and respiratory muscles causing a need for high ventilation, thus starting at the beginning all over again. These disorders are irreversible, but can be managed with rehabilitative exercise training. This will be discussed more in the next blog.

1Powers, S.K. and Howley, E. T. Exercise Physiology. Theory and Application
to Fitness and Performance. 2015; (9).
2Vogiatzis, I., Zakynthinos, S. The physiological basis of rehabilitation in chronic heart and lung disease. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2013; (1) 115; 16-21.


  1. Very nice blog! Very informative! :)

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