Body Weight And Shortness Of Breath

Some recent client interactions have led me to more closely examine if any evidence exists exploring a potential connection between body weight and experiencing shortness of breath on limited exertion ( ie: walking up the stairs) in otherwise healthy people.

I commenced my search for answers and quickly stumbled upon what is known as “ Dyspnea on Exertion (DOE, also known as exertional dyspnoea) which essentially describes the sensation of struggling for your breath after short bouts of activity.

It may be more colloquially   known as shortness of breath or breathlessness on exertion.

That seemed to be exactly what I was looking for so I decided to review some of the available literature on this condition, and it is apparently not uncommon for individuals with elevated BMIs to experience exertional dyspnoea.

Bernhardt and Babb, who have published a number of studies in this subject area, suggest that “ Obesity may be the most likely reason for exertional dyspnoea.”

I took a closer look at some of the studies they’ve conducted, which primarily involved testing the effect of diet and exercise on DOE in otherwise healthy obese women.

Aerobic Exercise Only

Otherwise healthy obese women were able to improve their DOE, independent of weight loss, using a 12-week aerobic exercise training program involving 30 minutes of exercise a day at 70-80% heart rate for 4 days a week.

Cardiorespiratory indicators also improved.

These changes occurred in the absence of weight loss.

Weight Loss + Resistance Exercise

In a study similar to the one above, including a 12-week intervention period and otherwise healthy obese women as subjects, the researchers found that a program including dietary modification aimed at weight loss coupled with resistance training improved DOE.

Cardiorespiratory indicators also improved.

Final Thoughts

Today’s article was a quickie that was inspired by client interactions and a desire to learn more about this relevant topic.

Hopefully it offers some interesting insights into the concept of Exertional Dyspnea and the potential for diet and exercise intervention to play a role in its management.

Obviously the results of studies looking at the effect of dietary modification independent of resistance training & weight loss would also be of great interest.

Let me know if you know of any!

Until next time,

Andy De Santis RD MPH