To examine the effect of pursed-lips breathing (PLB) on breathing pattern and respiratory mechanics, we studied 11 healthy subjects breathing with and without PLB at rest and during steady-state bicycle exercise. Six of these subjects took part in a second study, which compared the effects of PLB to expiratory resistive loading (ERL). PLB was found to prolong expiratory and total breath durations and to promote a slower and deeper breathing pattern. During exercise, the compensatory increase that occurred in tidal volume was not sufficient to counter the reduction in breathing frequency, causing minute ventilation to be reduced. Although ERL similarly caused minute ventilation and breathing frequency to be decreased, unlike PLB, it produced no change in tidal volume and prolonged expiratory and total breath durations to a lesser extent. PLB and ERL increased the expiratory resistance to a comparable degree, also increasing the expiratory resistive work of breathing and promoting greater expiratory rib cage and abdominal muscle recruitment in response to the expiratory loads. End-expiratory lung volume, which was determined from inspiratory capacity maneuvers, was not altered by PLB; however, with ERL it was increased by 0.20 and 0.24 liter during rest and exercise, respectively. Inspiratory muscle recruitment patterns were not altered by PLB at rest, although small increases in the relative contribution of the rib cage/accessory muscles in conjunction with abdominal muscle relaxation occurred during exercise. Similar trends were observed with ERL. We conclude that, although ERL and PLB induce comparable respiratory muscle recruitment responses, they are not equivalent with respect to breathing pattern changes and effect on end-expiratory lung volume.

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