High-resistance inspiratory muscle strength training increases exercise tolerance in middle-aged adults

Despite the myriad of known benefits of exercise, many middle-aged and older adults struggle to meet physical activity recommendations. New research reveals the potential of high resistance inspiratory muscle strength training (IMST) to help this population transition to a healthier lifestyle. The study will be presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Physiological Society at Experimental Biology 2022.

Although physical exercise reduces the risk of developing a chronic disease with aging, a 2016 study found that 28% of American adults aged 50 and older were physically inactive.

Developing new forms of physical training that increase adherence and improve physical function are key to reducing the risk of chronic disease with aging. High-strength IMST may be one such strategy to promote adherence and improve several components of health in middle-aged and elderly people.

Kaitlin Freeberg, MS, Principal Investigator

IMST involves breathing in through a hand-held device called a manual breathing trainer that adds resistance to the breath. The research team divided 35 adults aged 50 and over into a high resistance group or a low resistance control group. Both groups used a manual breath trainer for 30 breaths a day (about five minutes) for six weeks; both groups were able to join the program.

After six weeks, the high-resistance group showed a 12% improvement in a treadmill time-to-exhaustion test, while the low-resistance control group showed no change. The improvement in the high-strength group also showed a relationship with changes in 18 metabolites tested in the study, primarily those that “play key roles in energy production and fatty acid metabolism.”

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

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Richard V. Johnson