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School of Health Sciences

Physiological determinants of exercise tolerance and critical power in health and disease

Goulding Research

Researchers: Mr Richie Goulding (Phd), Dr Denise Roche and Dr Simon Marwood 

‌The ability to tolerate high-intensity exercise is an important determinant of health-related quality of life, functional capacity, and longevity. It is therefore vital to develop a detailed physiological understanding of what enables humans to perform and sustain high-intensity, whole-body exercise. These physiological “determinants” of exercise tolerance remain largely unresolved, however.
An important measure that is related to the ability to perform high-intensity exercise is called “critical power”. Critical power is an important physiological fatigue threshold, and separates work rates that are sustainable for only short periods of time from those that are sustainable for longer, prolonged periods of time. However, the key physiological factors that determine critical power are currently unresolved.
One other physiological factor that has previously been shown to be related to the critical power is the time course (i.e. the “kinetics”) of oxygen uptake following the onset of exercise. Whether this relationship is causal, however, remains to be determined. Additionally, previous research has also shown that oxygen delivery to the active muscles during exercise may mediate this relationship. The goal of my research, therefore, is to variously alter oxygen delivery and oxygen uptake kinetics at the onset of exercise, and assess the impact that this has on critical power. We hope that this will give us information on whether these relationships are indeed causal, and if they are, what the relative contributions of each of these variables (or other, as yet unknown variables) are in determining critical power.
It is hoped that this research will give important information on the physiological determinants of critical power, and thus by extension, exercise tolerance and fatigue. Once we have a greater understanding of the factors that limit exercise tolerance and cause fatigue, we will be better equipped to design interventions that can improve exercise tolerance in populations where this is impaired, and thus improve quality of life.

Contact Information

If you would like to hear more about this project, please contact Richie at the following: 


T: 0151 291 3815