Aging is associated with increased breathlessness and declines in respiratory function. These changes may result in decreased exercise with associated consequences on health and quality of life. We hypothesized that respiratory resistance training (RRT) would increase measures of pulmonary function in the elderly.
15 residents of a retirement community in Richmond, IN (82.2±1.7 years old) received spirometry testing (QRS) at baseline (BL) and were then given a PowerLung “Breather” and instructed to breathe through the device 30 times twice/day. After 9 weeks of RRT, spirometry testing was repeated.
Participants averaged 54±12 breaths per day (~90% compliance) with the device. Maximum Voluntary Ventilation increased with RRT in 11 of 15 participants (47±7 L at BL and 63±9 L at 9 weeks; a 26% increase vs BL, P<0.01). Forced Vital Capacity increased in 12 of 15 participants (from 2.35±0.27 L at BL, to 2.79±0.42 L at 9 weeks; a ~13% increase vs BL, P=0.054). Peak Expiratory Flow Rate increased 21%, from 4.26±0.6 L/s at BL to 4.71±0.58 L/s after 9 weeks of training (p = n.s.). 12 of the 15 participants reported qualitative improvements in the ease with which they breathe and/or decreased breathlessness with exercise.
These data suggest that RRT increases ventilatory capacity in the elderly. These preliminary data suggest that larger trials of RRT in the elderly may be warranted.