Effects of Exercise-induced Asthma on Lung Capacity

Nicole Hein and Kelly Kehoe

We tested the difference in the vital lung capacity of a non-asthmatic individual and an individual with exercise-induced asthma. Initially we considered the definition of asthma, a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs, and personal experience with the effects of asthma, wheezing and coughing with increased physical exercise, in order to give us possible insight to our problem. We hypothesized, that asthma reduces vital lung capacity in an individual with exercise-induced asthma. Vital lung capacity, which is measured by a spirometer, is the total amount of air that can be exhaled after deep inhalation. Since asthma inflames and narrows the airways that allow the passage of air into the lungs, we predicted that this experiment would show that the non-asthmatic has a greater vital lung capacity after running in comparison with exercise-induced asthmatic.

To test our hypothesis we performed three, ten minute trials in which a non-asthmatic and an exercise-induced asthmatic with the same level of physical fitness (5-7 days a week for 1-2 hours) ran, at the same speed and distance, in order to increase their breathing rates. After each ten minute running period, each participant performed three normal breaths, followed by and deep inhalation and exhalation, and than three more normal breaths, into the spirometer. The non-asthmatic and exercise-induced asthmatic were given ten minutes between each running period to allow for recovery of heart rate and breathing, and the next trial was performed.

Our results indicated that the vital lung capacity of a non-asthmatic (mean = 10.14 L/s) is significantly greater than the vital lung capacity of an exercise-induced asthmatic (mean = 7.54 L/s and a P<0.05).

Our results were consistent with our hypothesis, and illustrate that lung capacity is greater in a non-asthmatic than in an exercise-induced asthmatic. Although our results were consistent with our hypothesis, there were potential problems with our experiment. One such problem was the non-asthmatic and asthmatic were not breathing into the spirometer simultaneously; the non-asthmatic waited for the asthmatic to finish the spirometer data collection before starting her data collection. This time gap might have allowed the non-asthmatic to recover a normal breathing rate, and the result would have shown an extreme increase in vital lung capacity. To avoid this problem from reoccurring in future experiments, two computers and spirometers should be used to allow for simultaneous breathing by the asthmatic and non-asthmatic. Another potential problem that could have caused extremes in the data was the temperature. The air outside was extremely cold and dry, which heightens the affect asthma has on lung capacity. We could have avoided this problem by running inside on a treadmill. Results from E.R. McFadden and Ileen A. Gilbert of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, also demonstrated that exercise-induced asthma reduces lung capacity, but they did not compare their results to the lung capacity of a non-asthmatic. Sandra D. Anderson also examined the affects running has on asthmatic breathing. AndersonŐs research showed that an asthmatic performing strenuous exercise will experience a dramatic decrease in lung capacity. From the results of our experiment we failed to reject our hypothesis. Our results showed that a non-asthmatic individual has a much greater lung capacity than an individual with exercise-induced asthma.




Work Cited Page


1.     Gilbert, I. and E.R. McFadden. 1994. Exercise-Induced Asthma. The New England Journal of Medicine, 330: 1362-1367.



2.     Anderson, Sandra. 1995. Exercise-Induced Asthma. Chest Journal, 87: 191-195.