Effects of a 4-week respiratory muscle training program on the performance of distance runners

Background 

Distance running is one of the most popular pastimes across the world. Being able to ensure sufficient ventilation and oxygen supply is a key component of running economy and performance.  Fatigue of your respiratory muscles can increase work of breathing and limit the total blood flow to peripheral muscles thus slowing you down. Inspiratory muscle training (IMT) has been reported to improve the strength and endurance of respiratory muscle, whether this can improve running performance remains in question. 

Method 

21 healthy recreational 10km runners were randomly allocated into two groups. Group 1 received IMT  training, group 2 were given placebo exercises over a 4 week period. Assessments were conducted before and after the program. Assessments included; respiratory muscle strength, 10 km completion time, peak oxygen consumption and lactic acid accumulation after the run. 

Results

Significant improvements were made by Group 1 in relation to respiratory muscle strength (17% stronger) versus group 2 who saw no improvements. In addition, there were also small improvements seen in 10 km completion time (6% faster) in Group 1. Both peak oxygen consumption & lactic acid levels post-run, remained unchanged. 

Limitations 

It's always important to consider the limitations of a study before applying it in practice:

1| Small sample size - this study only included 21 participants, which means the result may not be statistically significant. 

2| Small improvement in 10 km time - this could be due to other factors not specifically the intervention. 

Clinical Implications 

IMT is effective in strengthening respiratory muscle in distance runners and there are signs that the improved respiratory muscle strength may enhance running performance. This remains in need of further investigation but could be useful for those looking to boost their 10 km time. Lots of us work on strength, flexibility, endurance etc but few athletes or trainers consider the strength of respiratory muscles. 

So what exactly is IMT? 

Inspiratory muscle training is  a course of therapy consisting of a series of breathing exercises that aim to strengthen the bodies’ respiratory muscles. Inspiratory muscle training is normally aimed at people who suffer from asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other pulmonary diseases. However, many athletes use IMT as part of their sports training as this training. Book online for virtual Telehealth appointment on IMT and improve your 10km PB whilst under lockdown 

Article: https://www.physiotherapyjournal.com/article/S0031-9406(15)02008-8/fulltext

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