When you think of strength training, you likely call to mind images of lifting weights and push ups. That said, there are muscles other than those similar to abs, glutes and biceps. Recent research shows that the lungs must also be strengthened just as you would work on muscle groups throughout the rest of your body.
In fact, even five minutes per day of heavy breathing can provide a type of "strength training" your lungs that can make a difference. The research showed that even that small amount can help to make improvements ranging from coronary health to cognitive wellness. It can help to provide added results to your regular aerobic exercise and, in some areas, may provide better outcomes.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Colorado at Boulder. They presented their "Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training" (IMT) findings based on a clinical trial of 50 subjects. They demonstrated that raising brain function and enhancing athletic performance can be a matter of using breath resistance training. The reason is that it can improve the function of the arteries and decrease the heart attack risk.
Strength training for the lungs isn't a matter of lifting weights. Instead, the researchers used a special device they called an "inspiratory muscle training device." The participants held the device in their mouths, and it created airflow resistance for them. As a result, they needed to use more force to be able to breathe in and breathe out. The researchers said the experience of using the device was like "sucking hard through a straw which sucks back."
This device has been around since the 1980s. It was developed for half hour sessions to assist people with asthma and lung diseases to increase their lung capacities.
That said, more recently, there has been a greater focus on lung capacity and lung strength, which led researchers to apply this device in a new way. They nicknamed it "lung lifting". The first trial was in 2016 and it was conducted by a team at the University of Arizona. They sought to determine of 30 daily inhalations with the device could help people who have obstructive sleep apnea. Patients with that condition have weak breathing muscles.
The researchers in both studies found that the participants had better quality sleep, but after six weeks other benefits appeared, as well. They performed better on memory tests and saw an average 12 millimeters of systolic blood pressure improvement.