It was discovered that during exercise the muscles around the diaphragm and ribcage that are needed for breathing consume more oxygen in women than in men.
As more oxygen is required by the respiratory muscles to breathe, women consume more energy and require a higher oxygen intake, which increases during exercise. Therefore women need to breathe more to compensate for this increased oxygen requirement.
Previous research indicated that women’s airways ate narrower than men’s, even when both have the same sized lungs and therefore moving the same amount of oxygen through the airways costs more energy-wise for women than for men.
The study also suggested that if women’s respiratory muscles require more oxygen then blood flow is directed here and may be reduced from other parts of the body such as the leg muscles and for cardiac output. Therefore the physical performance of other parts of the body may decrease due to the focus of the body to concentrate the oxygen to travel mainly to the respiratory muscles.
The findings could prove important in the treatment of lung disorders, as a reduced lung capacity combined with harder working muscles may lead to a higher energy demand, with it being greater in women. These findings could be important in the clinical management of people with lung disorders and lead to more focus on the gender of the patient as to how best to treat them such as altering their fitness programmes.