Just 5 minutes of breath training every day makes exercise easier for adults

ROCKVILLE, Md. — A handheld device which builds breathing muscles could help older people get in shape. Doing just five minutes of the breath training exercises every day for more than six weeks improved people’s performance on the treadmill by 12 percent, according to scientists.

Many middle-aged and older adults struggle to meet guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when it comes to physical activity. Adults are recommended to log 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Now scientists have come up with a simple way of making exercising on the treadmill easier for those struggling to get running.

Regular exercise has been found to reduce the risk of major illnesses, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancer, three of the leading causes of death worldwide.

“Developing novel forms of physical training that increase adherence and improve physical function are key to reducing the risk of chronic diseases with aging,” says lead researcher Kaitlin Freeberg, of the University of Colorado, in a statement. “High-resistance IMST (high-resistance inspiratory muscle strength training) may be one such strategy to promote adherence and improve multiple components of health in midlife and older adults.”

IMST involves inhaling through a handheld device which adds resistance to the breath. A total of 35 adults were divided into two groups, a high resistance training group and a low resistance control group. Participants used a manual breathing trainer for 30 breaths a day, or around five minutes, over a period of six weeks.

Those who were part of the high-resistance group improved their treadmill time by 12 percent, the researchers report. Participants in the high-resistance group also showed a relationship with changes in 18 metabolites tested in the study, “predominantly ones that play key roles in energy production and fatty acid metabolism.”

No change was observed for people in the low-resistance control group however.

Examples of moderate intensity activity range from riding a bike and playing doubles tennis, to water aerobics and pushing a lawn mower. People who are strapped for time can alternatively do 75 minutes of vigorous exercise to keep in shape.

“These preliminary findings suggest five minutes per 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,” adds Freeberg.

The findings were presented at the American Physiological Society annual meeting in Philadelphia.

South West News Service writer Tom Campbell contributed to this report.