Abdominal fat more significant in exercise-induced shortness of breath than overall weight

When it comes to being short of breath during exercise, how fat is distributed on the body is a more significant factor than overall body fatness or lung function, say researchers at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. They found that women with higher amounts of abdominal fat required more oxygen during exertion. That finding may have important implications for helping obese people better tolerate the exercise they so badly need.

Dr. Tony Babb and Dr. Rebecca MacDougall, a physician and research assistant in Dr. Babb's laboratory, presented the findings on April 4 at Experimental Biology 2006 in San Francisco. The presentation was part of the scientific program of The American Physiological Society.

More than half of Americans are classified as overweight and more than 22 percent are obese; obesity contributes to diabetes and metabolic syndrome; heart disease, hypertension, and stroke; and some forms of cancer. Last year, approximately 300,000 deaths in the United States were attributed to obesity, and the annual healthcare cost related to obesity now runs at $117 billion. Physical activity and exercise are among the most important components in the prevention and treatment of obesity, but many obese adults do not participate in regular physical activity because they simply can't get enough breath while exerting themselves.

But it's not only their weight per se that's too blame, say the researchers. In earlier studies in the Babb laboratory, researchers had measured the oxygen cost of breathing a unique measurement of how much oxygen is utilized for breathing -- in mild to moderately obese women. The oxygen cost was markedly increased in some but not all of the women, even when their overall body fat was similar. In the study reported at Experimental Biology, the researchers tested eight mild-to-moderately obese women to see

Contact: Sarah Goodwin
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

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