As children, breathing is the first thing we work out how to do when we play sports. I still clearly remember my first cross country run at primary school. Nobody had ever explained to me about managing my effort and halfway around I got a stitch; my body was demanding more air than my lungs could take in, resulting in a burning pain in my side. I can’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old, but the memory of being the only kid who had to walk half the race stays with me.
• Only takes 5-10 minutes per day
• 45 day moneyback guarantee
• 2 year warranty
• Made in Denmark
• MSRP: 299 Euros
Modern athletes are familiar with splitting training down into specific blocks - maybe they lift weight for strength or head out on long rides for endurance - it is so common it hardly needs explaining. Yet how often do you hear people talking about the most fundamental part of your performance? How many of us train our breathing?
A quick Google search for “breathing training” mainly brings up results for dealing with anxiety and stress, or lung conditions like COPD, with little mention of sports. Which is odd, especially as there is emerging science that shows breathing exercises alone can help boost not only your athletic performance, but your general health too.
Airofit are one of the first companies to recognise the potential of breath training, and created this eponymous device.
At its most basic, the Airofit is a T-shaped assembly with a mouthpiece attached to a small barrel with vents at either end. On each of the vents is a bevelled wheel that lets you increase or decrease the resistance for the passing air.
When you breathe into the Airofit the small computer mounted on the barrel controls which of the vents opens and relays information about the volume and speed of the air to its app. The idea is that by opening and closing the vents to restrict airflow you are making the lungs work harder and therefore training them.
When you switch the device on, the app takes you through a lung test to measure the force and volume you can inhale and exhale with. It then selects a training session based on those numbers and your recent training. Airofit make a big deal of how convenient it is - at present it is setting me a 30-second lung test, a 3-minute inhale exercise and a 3-4 minute secondary exercise to complement that. They say that you should be able to fit it into your day in 3-10 minutes.
Using the Airofit
Before we go too deep into this review, it needs to be said up front that I believe that the Airofit does exactly what they claim it does. I would go as far as to describe its results as impressive, after just a couple of weeks of use I could feel improvements in my lung performance and have the data to support what I felt. It does offer a level of performance enhancement above and beyond what I have found until now - I have been doing the Wim Hof breathing exercises since January and I would say that the gains from the Airofit are more definite.
Opening the box, my first impression of the Airofit was actually one of disappointment. I have tested a few performance-enhancing devices recently - like the similarly priced Oura ring - and it is not manufactured to the same standard. Oura have clearly invested a lot of time and effort to make their rings desirable, while the Airofit feels functional. That is not to say it feels cheap or poorly-made, but by setting themselves a €300 price tag they are creating expectations that they are not matching for me. If the device sold for €50, then this paragraph would read very differently.
My sensitivity to the device cost was heightened when I realised that part of the app requires a supplemental subscription - another €6 per month. Maybe it is my personal sensibilities, but I tend to feel that you can either do a subscription service or a high unit price, not both. Although, maybe if they unlocked the advanced data fields in the app and rebranded the service as personalised training, then it might feel better.
Loading the app for the first time, again the experience was not fantastic - it feels basic and a little low quality next to the other apps I use regularly for training and health. The explanation videos felt rather jarring and not fully integrated into the app and the programme of exercises a little disorientating. The part I find consistently off-putting is the “compliance” score in the top right. Even though I am trying my hardest to follow the exercise, the score frustratingly drops every time. For a lab experiment, compliance may well be a precise term, but for a consumer product, it feels rather harsh.
The exercises themselves are quite intense. The beginner level exercises I was prescribed feel like I have been working, even after just a couple of minutes of restricted airflow. Curiosity lead me to try an intermediate workout and I could not finish it, it was just brutal. Don’t get me wrong, brutal can have its place in a training programme, but it needs to be thought through. For the past few months I have been following Wim Hof’s breathing exercises consistently, and it can get brutal at times with the long breath holds, but he understood that there needs to be some payoff - after finishing Wims exercises I feel wonderful. The Airofit doesn’t seem to have any kind of payback - it is just hard work.
Then there is the final kicker - convenience. Training is not an elegant affair - the device comes out of your mouth covered in saliva, it is reasonably gross. The problem is what do you do with the device after training? It arrives in a mesh sack, which is not an ideal material for keeping saliva inside. I would take the idea of convenience to mean that you can train where and when suits you, but how can you do that if you cannot easily carry it with you? A hard, plastic carry case would have solved all this, and for the €300 asking price, I find it unforgivable that they have not addressed this issue.
+ Relatively quick and impressive results
+ Huge potential for changing general health, not just sport
+ Hard training sessions
- Expensive - high initial cost and subscription
- App feels a little basic
- Hard training sessions