Older adults physical exercise ability improved by breath training


Despite the many benefits of exercise and their numerous known benefits, many older adults are struggling to follow physical activity recommendations. Research has shown that IMST (high-resistance inspiratory muscular strength training) could be a viable option to assist this population in achieving a healthier lifestyle.

While exercise can reduce the likelihood of developing chronic illnesses with aging, a 2016 survey found that 28% of Americans over 50 were not physically active. To reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases as we age, it is important to develop novel methods of physical training that improve physical function and adherence. Kaitlin Freeberg (MS), a lead researcher, explains that high-resistance IMST might be one strategy to encourage adherence and improve multiple aspects of health in older adults and midlife.

IMST is achieved by inhaling through a handheld device known as a manual breathing coach that adds resistance. The research team divided 35 people over 50 into two groups: a high-resistance and a low resistance control group. Each group used a manual breathing coach for 30 breaths per day for six weeks. Both groups were able adhere to the program.

Six weeks later, the treadmill time to exhaustion test showed a 12% improvement for the high-resistance group, while the low resistance control group did not show any change. The study also revealed a correlation between the improvement in high-resistance groups and changes in 18 metabolites, mainly those that “play key roles for energy production” and “fatty acid metabolism.”

Freeberg stated that “These preliminary findings suggest 5 min/day of high-resistance IMST is a promising, highly adherable mode of physical training that increases exercise tolerance and modulates metabolic pathways in [middle-aged and older] adults.”

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