Washington: Daily breathing exercises for six weeks freed more oxygen for other muscles by cutting down on the amount required by breathing or inspiratory muscles during exercise.
Louise Turner, researcher in kinesiology at the Indiana University, said just the act of breathing during an endurance activity such as running, swimming or cycling, performed at maximum intensity, can account for 10 to 15 percent of an athlete`s total oxygen consumption.
"This study helps to provide further insight into the potential mechanisms responsible for the improved whole-body endurance performance previously reported following IMT (inspiratory muscle training)," she said.
The double blind, placebo-controlled study involved male cyclists aged 18 to 40.
IMT involves the use of a hand-held device that provides resistance as one inhales through it, requiring greater use of inspiratory muscles.
For half of the study participants, the IMT device was set to a level that provided resistance as the subjects took a fast forceful breath in.
For six weeks they took 30 breaths at this setting twice a day. The cyclists in the control group did the same exercises with the IMT adjusted to a minimal level.
After six weeks, when the study participants mimicked the breathing required for low, moderate and maximum intensity activities, the inspiratory muscles required around one percent less oxygen during the low intensity exercise and required 3 to 4 percent less during the high intensity exercise.
Muscles need oxygen to produce energy. Turner`s research also is looking at the next component of this equation, whether more oxygen is actually available to other muscles, particularly those in the legs, because less oxygen is being used by the breathing muscles, says an Indiana University release.
IMT has been used as an intervention in pulmonary diseases and conditions, such as asthma, COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that makes it hard to breathe and cystic fibrosis, and also is marketed as a means for improving athletic performance in cyclists, runners and swimmers.
Turner presented her study at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting.