The hypothesis that the rate of increase in muscle O2 uptake (VO2mus) at the onset of exercise is influenced by muscle blood flow was tested during forearm exercise with the arm either above or below heart level to modify perfusion pressure. Ten young men exercised at a power of approximately 2.2 W, and five of these subjects also worked at 1.4 W. Blood flow to the forearm was calculated from the product of blood velocity and cross-sectional area obtained with Doppler techniques. Venous blood was sampled from a deep forearm vein to determine O2 extraction. The rate of increase in VO2mus and blood flow was assessed from the mean response time (MRT), which is the time to achieve approximately 63% increase from baseline to steady state. In the arm below heart position during the 2.2-W exercise, blood flow and VO2mus both increased, with a MRT of approximately 30 s. With the arm above the heart at this power, the MRTs for blood flow [79.8 +/- 15.7 (SE)s] and VO2mus (50.2 +/- 4.0 s) were both significantly slower. Consistent with these findings were the greater increases in venous plasma lactate concentration over resting valued in the above heart position (2.8 +/- 0.4 mmol/l) than in the below heart position (0.9 +/- mmol/l). At the lower power, both blood flow and VO2mus also increased more rapidly with the arm below compared with above the heart. These data support the hypothesis that changes in blood flow at the onset of exercise have a direct effect on oxidative metabolism through alterations in O2 transport.
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