Because obesity results in an increased work of breathing, we tested the hypothesis that the oxidative properties and myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoform profiles in respiratory muscles would differ between lean and obese animals. Furthermore, we postulated that obesity-related changes in respiratory muscles would be independent of age. To test these hypotheses, samples of the costal diaphragm, crural diaphragm, and parasternal intercostal muscles were removed from three age groups (young, adult, and old) of obese and lean Zucker rats. Citrate synthase (CS) activity was measured as a marker of oxidative capacity, and MHC isoforms were identified with gel electrophoresis. Analysis revealed that CS activity was significantly higher in the crural and costal diaphragms and parasternal intercostals of obese animals compared with lean animals (P < 0.05); this obesity related increase in CS activity was relatively independent of age. Furthermore, respiratory muscle percent type IIb MHC was lower and percent type I MHC isoforms were higher in obese animals compared with lean animals. These data support the notion that obesity results in a fast-to-slow shift in MHC phenotype and an increase in oxidative capacity in major inspiratory muscles. The shift in MHC isoforms in obese animals is also age related, whereas the obesity-mediated increase in oxidative capacity is relatively independent of age.