Uptake of Oxygen by the Pulmonary Blood During Exercise

During strenuous exercise, a person's body may require as much as 20 times the normal amount of oxygen. Also, because of increased cardiac output during exercise, the time that the blood remains in the pulmonary capillary may be reduced to less than one half normal. Yet, because of the great safety factor for diffusion of oxygen through the pulmonary membrane, the blood still becomes almost saturated with oxygen by the time it leaves the pulmonary capillaries. This can be explained as follows.

First, it was pointed out in Chapter 39 that the diffusing capacity for oxygen increases almost threefold during exercise; this results mainly from increased surface area of capillaries participating in the diffusion and also from a more nearly ideal ventilation-perfusion ratio in the upper part of the lungs.

Second, note in the curve of Figure 40-1 that under nonexercising conditions, the blood becomes almost saturated with oxygen by the time it has passed through one third of the pulmonary capillary, and little additional oxygen normally enters the blood during the latter two thirds of its transit. That is, the blood normally stays in the lung capillaries about three times as long as necessary to cause full oxygenation.

Mixed with

Mixed with

Figure 40-2

Changes in Po2 in the pulmonary capillary blood, systemic arterial blood, and systemic capillary blood, demonstrating the effect of "venous admixture."

Therefore, during exercise, even with a shortened time of exposure in the capillaries, the blood can still become fully oxygenated, or nearly so.

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Essentials of Human Physiology

Essentials of Human Physiology

This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.

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