MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: How much oxygen do my lungs absorb?

Date: Tue Mar 3 17:09:21 1998
Posted By: Adrian Canale-Parola, General Medical Practitioner
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 884199527.Me

The amount of air breathed in and out varies from about 6 litres/minute at 
rest (in an average adult) to about 50 litres/minute after hard exercise.
The amount of oxygen absorbed varies from about 300 ml/min at rest to 3500 
ml/min for the average male adult during heavy exercise, and up to 6000 
ml/min in athletes.

Curiously the main difference fitness makes is in the amount of blood 
pumped around the body during exertion. The fitter you are, the more 
effectively the heart pumps, i.e. more blood is pumped with each heartbeat 
hence more oxygen is transported with each beat.

Both unfit and fit people breathe about the same amount of air in and out 
during heavy exercise, and will have about the same maximal heart rate. The 
main difference is in the amount of blood being pumped through the lungs 
(greater in a fitter person for the same heart rate), and thus the amount 
of oxygen being transported.

Therefore a fit person, who has the ability to transport more oxygen in his 
or her blood (and hence to the muscles) during exercise will be able to 
achieve greater levels of exertion than an unfit person.

Dr C-P

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