There is a study that aims to assess athletes’ ability to warm and humidify inspired air. This study is published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. It is called, Athletes do not condition inspired air more effectively than non-athletes during hyperpnea.
Endurance athletes’ inspired air
Airway disease is more prevalent in endurance athletes. This is possible because they need to adapt their breathing to cope with large volumes of inspired air. And they need to inspire large volumes of air because of the intense exercise they perform. But the environment they train in may also be relevant.
The study measures the difference between each athlete’s inhaled and exhaled air temperature. It did this during and after a Eucapnic Voluntary Hyperpnea test (EVH). This is the test that is used to diagnose exercise-induced asthma or exercise-induced bronchospasm. It is a 6 minute test during which the athlete breathes a cold, dry gas at very high ventilation rates.
All 23 athletes in the study attend a laboratory on three occasions. Two of these occasions are for baseline measurements and information. The third is to perform a modified EVH test. This is to measure their inspired and expired air temperatures.
No evidence of improved capacity to condition inspired air
The test results show no evidence of improved capacity to condition inspired air. And by ‘conditioned’ air the study means the athlete’s ability to warm and humidify inspired air. If the study did find evidence, this could suggest an increased bronchial blood flow or another adaptive mechanism. Bronchial blood flow supplies nutrients and oxygen to the cells that constitute the lungs, as well as carrying waste products away from them. Therefore the absence of an adaptive mechanism could contribute to airway damage observed in endurance athletes. This may be that colder but mainly dryer air is penetrating deeper in the lung.
Strategies to reduce impact on airway injury
A pre-exercise warm-up is well known to reduce the severity of exercise-induced bronchospasm and exercise-induced asthma. It is thought the reason for this is because of an increase in bronchial blood flow. A warm-up involves performing the athlete’s activity at a slower pace and reduced intensity. It gradually raises the body temperature. Furthermore it increases blood flow to the muscles.
An inspiratory warm-up
It is also beneficial to warm-up the breathing muscles. A scientifically proven way of doing this is with Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT). POWERbreathe is an IMT device that is quick and easy to use. POWERbreathe IMT is performed as part of an athlete’s daily training. But research and trials have also shown it to be beneficial for an inspiratory warm-up. This means simply reducing the breathing load on the POWERbreathe IMT device to a lower setting. Better still the POWERbreathe K3, K4 and K5 with Breathe-Link Live Feedback Software feature an automatic warm-up mode. This automatically sets the optimal resistance for an inspiratory muscle warm-up.