Stager, J. M., Kojima, K., Ishimatsu, M., Wilhite, D. P., & Wright, B. V. (2013). Breathing pattern and strategy during exercise in young swimmers and non-swim trained children. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 45(5), Supplement abstract number 1269.

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This study characterized the breathing patterns and strategies of young swimmers (M = 12; F = 12) during incremental exercise to volitional exhaustion and compared those measures to age- and size-matched non-swim-trained children (M = 7; F = 4). Ss performed resting pulmonary function and incremental exercise tests to volitional exhaustion (VO2peak) on a cycle ergometer. Pulmonary function was collected during a set of maximal inspiratory and expiratory maneuvers for the determination of the maximal flow-volume loop. Metabolic and ventilatory data were recorded at each minute during the VO2peak test. Exercise inspiratory and expiratory/inspiratory tidal volume and expiratory/inspiratory peak flow were measured during the last 30 seconds of each minute. Inspiratory and expiratory reserve volumes were determined using inspiratory capacity maneuvers.

At rest, swimmers showed significantly greater forced vital capacity and maximal mid-expiratory flow than the non-swimmers. The groups were similar in relative VO2, breathing frequency, and inspiratory reserve volume at 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100% of VO2peak. Significantly greater minute ventilation, tidal volume, expiratory reserve volume, inspiratory tidal volume, expiratory tidal volume, inspiratory peak flow, and expiratory peak flow were observed in swimmers throughout the exercise bout.

Implication. With no difference in breathing frequency, the higher tidal flow in young swimmers permitted a higher tidal volume, thus allowing for greater minute ventilation during incremental exercise. Young swimmers appear to exploit a higher available expiratory airflow by breathing at higher lung volumes possibly as a means of avoiding mechanical constraints to ventilation.

The cycle ergometer test was not swimming specific. It is not possible to determine if swimming caused the enhanced breathing characteristics or if the Ss had those characteristics which then served to push them toward swimming where the advantage would be better utilized.

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