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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2013 May 1;304(9):R720-5. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00016.2013. Epub 2013 Mar 20.

Systemic and vastus lateralis muscle blood flow and O2 extraction during ramp incremental cycle exercise.

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  • 1Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging, School of Kinesiology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.


During ramp incremental cycling exercise increases in pulmonary O2 uptake (Vo2p) are matched by a linear increase in systemic cardiac output (Q). However, it has been suggested that blood flow in the active muscle microvasculature does not display similar linearity in blood flow relative to metabolic demand. This study simultaneously examined both systemic and regional (microvascular) blood flow and O2 extraction during incremental cycling exercise. Ten young men (Vo2 peak = 4.2 ± 0.5 l/min) and 10 young women (Vo2 peak = 3.2 ± 0.5 l/min) were recruited to perform two maximal incremental cycling tests on separate days. The acetylene open-circuit technique and mass spectrometry and volume turbine were used to measure Q (every minute) and breath-by-breath Vo2p, respectively; systemic arterio-venous O2 difference (a-vO2diff) was calculated as Vo2p/Q on a minute-by-minute basis. Changes in near-infrared spectroscopy-derived muscle deoxygenation (Δ[HHb]) were used (in combination with Vo2p data) to estimate the profiles of peripheral O2 extraction and blood flow of the active muscle microvasculature. The systemic Q-to-Vo2p relationship was linear (~5.8 l/min increase in Q for a 1 l/min increase in Vo2p) with a-vO2diff displaying a hyperbolic response as exercise intensity increased toward Vo2 peak. The peripheral blood flow response profile was described by an inverted sigmoid curve, indicating nonlinear responses relative to metabolic demand. The Δ[HHb] profile increased linearly with absolute Vo2p until high-intensity exercise, thereafter displaying a "near-plateau". Results indicate that systemic blood flow and thus O2 delivery does not reflect the profile of blood flow changes at the level of the microvasculature.


Vo2 max; a-vO2diff; cardiac output; near-infrared spectroscopy

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