[This is fascinating. I never knew this. Smaller lungs and denser bodies! I was very surprised by the mention of them struggling with long distance running. Believe it or not, but I was convinced, from our experiences in Africa that blacks were much better at long distance running. Jan]
Introduction by Hadding Scott: Do you remember, maybe when you were in high school, that Blacks do some really exaggerated breathing when lifting weights? I used to think that this was some unnecessary drama, like the strange noises that Blacks like to make when demonstrating martial arts. It’s not a put-on! They need to do that! They have less lung-power than you, and they run out of breath faster. They have to work their lungs harder to keep up with you.
The smaller lung capacity also makes it harder for them to stay afloat in water. This is a major reason why Negroes generally do not swim well. The other is that they have very dense skeletons.
Smallness of lungs also contributes to the fact that you won’t see a lot of West Africans (i.e. Negroes such as we have in the USA) winning marathons, but there are additional physical reasons for that as well.
From the Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol 62, Issue 6 2220-2223. (This is the stub that is available online. The link at the bottom allows purchase of the whole article if you are really interested in the details.)
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Breathing pattern during exercise in young black and Caucasian subjects
F. J. Cerny
Lung volumes in sex-, age-, height-, and weight-matched Black subjects are 10-15% lower than those in Caucasians. To determine whether this decreased lung volume affected the ventilatory adaptation to exercise, minute ventilation (VE), its components, frequency (f) and tidal volume (VT), and breathing pattern were observed during incremental cycle-ergometer exercise. Eighteen Caucasian (age 8-30 yr) and 14 Black (age 8-25 yr) subjects were studied. Vital capacity (VC) was lower (P less than 0.001) in the Black subjects [90.6 +/- 8.6 (SD)
vs. 112.9 +/- 9.9% predicted], whereas functional residual capacity/total lung capacity was higher (P less than 0.05). VE, mixed expired O2 and CO2, VT, f, and inspiratory (TI), expiratory (TE), and total respiratory cycle (TT) duration were measured during the last 30 s of each 2-min load. Statistical comparisons with increasing power output were made at rest and from 0.6 to 2.4 W/kg in 0.3-W/kg increments. VE was higher in Blacks at all work loads and reached significance (P less than 0.05) at 0.6 and 1.5 W/kg. VE/VO2 was also higher throughout exercise, reaching significance (P less than 0.01) at 1.2, 1.5, and 1.8 W/kg. The Black subjects attained any given level of VE with a higher f (P less than 0.001) and lower VT. TI and TE were shortened proportionately so that TI/TT was not different. Differences in lung volume and the ventilatory response to exercise in these Black and Caucasian subjects suggest differences in the respiratory pressure-volume relationships or that the Black subjects may breathe higher on their pressure-volume curve.