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Breathing for Longevity

A simple breathing exercise may improve endurance. While working out, you probably try to exercise each muscle group relatively evenly. But what about the muscles that help us breathe? You are probably neglecting your respiratory muscles.

Research from the American Physiological Society at the Experimental Biology annual meeting suggests that training certain muscles that control our breathing may actually affect fitness levels. 

The training, called high-resistance inspiratory muscle strength training (IMST) is a kind of resistant training that strengthens muscles used to breathe.

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These techniques aren’t new: it was first introduced in the 1980s, and trained respiratory muscles with a device that creates breathing resistance. Think of inhaling through a straw– difficult, right? That difficulty creates resistance, and that resistance creates strength.

Conventional exercise is still top dog when it comes to fighting aging, staying healthy, and improving mental health. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t an opening for more novel, time-efficient lifestyle interventions that can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease as aging sinks in.

The Results

The study divided 35 people aged 50 and older into two different groups. One group used IMST training at high resistance and the other, the ‘control group’, used it at low resistance. Both trained for 30 breaths, or around 5 minutes, every day for six weeks.

Could six works of high-resistance IMST training improve exercise tolerance and cardiorespiratory fitness?

As it turns out, yes it can. At the conclusion of the study, the high-resistance group showed a 12 percent improvement in a treadmill-time-to-exhaustion test. The control group showed no improvement.

Kaitlin Freeberg, a PhD student in the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder, commented on her team’s study, saying, “High-resistance IMST is a promising, time-efficient, low-barrier strategy for improving exercise tolerance and cardiovascular health in midlife and older adults.”

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