According to the CDC, 27.5% of people aged 50 or higher don’t do any exercise at all. Another study published in the Journal of Public Health Research highlights that the more people age, the more they tend to reduce or stop physical activity. This is a compounding problem because people who are less inclined towards exercise are also more prone to facing diseases like cancer, diabetes, and various cardiovascular health issues.

Therefore, daily (or at least regular) exercise is extremely important for middle-aged people and over to reduce the health risks they are likely to encounter. But the opposite is often happening — so how could we revert this? A new study may have the answer to this question, suggesting that a special type of daily breathing exercise can improve exercise timing and physical endurance in adults. 

Breathe in, breathe out

The exercise is called high-resistance inspiratory muscle strength training (IMST). During IMST, a person is required to inhale vigorously using a handheld breathing device — essentially a tube that adds resistance to your breath. The device acts as a training tool for your lungs and its regular use can enhance the functioning of your breathing muscles and diaphragm. IMST technique was introduced in the 1980s, initially used to treat patients with severe respiratory disorders.

But it may do much more than out.

Being physically active as you age carries great health benefits. Image Credits: Mark Smith.

Researcher Kaitlin A. Freeberg and his team at the University of Colorado Boulder performed an interesting experiment on 35 adults (age 50 years or higher) involving the IMST technique. The researchers split participants into two groups, subjecting the first group to high-resistance IMST and the second group to low-resistance IMST for six weeks. Subjects from both groups used the manual breathing trainer for at least five minutes every day during the experiment.

At the end of the six-week-long experiment, the people in the low-resistance group didn’t experience any change in their physical output, but those in the high-resistance group “showed a 12% improvement in a treadmill time to exhaustion test.” Moreover, in the same group, positive changes were noticed in metabolites that “play key roles in energy production and fatty acid metabolism.”

“Developing novel forms of physical training that increase adherence and improve physical function is key to reducing the risk of chronic diseases with aging. High-resistance IMST may be one such strategy to promote adherence and improve multiple components of health in midlife and older adults.”

When asked about the significance of this change, Freeberg told Healthline:

“The 12% improvement in exercise tolerance with high-resistance IMST is promising as it evoked about three-quarters of the increase in exercise tolerance that has been seen with traditional aerobic exercise interventions while requiring much less time to complete.” 

According to Freeberg, the preliminary results also prove that high-resistance IMST for five minutes per day is an effective technique for increasing exercise duration and modulating metabolic pathways in middle-aged and older adults. 

All in all, this could be an excellent tool to promote fitness and exercising in middle-aged people — and while the study didn’t analyze this, there could also be benefits for other health groups.

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