Pilates Plus IMT Improves Lung Function

Researchers from Brazil are looking at the effects of combining Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) with Pilates on lung function in elderly women. The reason for this is because ageing affects the respiratory system. In fact, it can change the composition of the lung’s connective tissue.

Ageing and the lungs

Ageing will ultimately affect bones and muscles. Moreover, natural ageing also affects the bones and muscles of the chest. Consequently, it may affect the shape of the ribcage. As a result, the ribcage may no longer expand or contract as well as it once did, during breathing. Additionally, the main breathing muscle, the diaphragm, becomes weaker too. This will affect how much air a person is able to breathe in and out.

Furthermore, ageing affects lung tissue and the airways may lose their ability to stay open. Additionally, the air sacs begin to lose their shape. Consequently, air may become trapped in the lungs. This affects how well you’re able to breathe.

Why inspiratory muscle training?

Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) is a form of resistance training that exercises the inspiratory muscles. The main inspiratory muscles are the diaphragm and intercostals. It’s these muscles that are responsible for drawing air into the lungs. Furthermore, it's these muscles that will be affected by ageing. Therefore, exercising these muscles with IMT will limit the effects of ageing. IMT will help them to become stronger and less prone to fatigue.

The IMT device that participants use in this trial is the POWERbreathe K5.

Participants breathe in through the K5 for 30 breaths. They perform this twice, with a one-minute interval between each set. After two weeks’ training, they must increase the training resistance by 10%. Researchers then assess an individual’s results following Pilates exercise.

Why Pilates?

Pilates is an exercise programme, developed in the 20th Century by Joseph Pilates. The exercises focus on improving core strength and muscular imbalance. Furthermore, Pilates improves flexibility, overall muscle strength and is low-impact, making it ideal for the age group in this study.

As we age, we become less active and more sedentary. Consequently, sitting for long periods limits movement and affects the body. In fact, age affects the entire musculoskeletal system: joints, muscles and bones. As a result, posture is affected and we also start to lose muscle tone, balance and joint mobility. Pilates can help to minimise these age-related changes.

For this study, participants use the Cadillac, Combo Chair and Reformer devices for the Pilates method. The researchers recommend nine exercises per session. Participants perform up to three sets of 12 repetitions of each exercise. They do this for a maximum of 45-minutes.

Study results

To establish if IMT positively effects breathing muscle strength, each participant’s maximum inspiratory pressure (MIP) is measured. MIP is an index of diaphragm strength and an independent predictor of all-cause mortality (longevity). Study findings show that MIP significantly evolved in the elderly. Additionally, the study highlights:

“the use of the POWERbreathe K5 device, which further favoured the gain in this variable.”

Findings also show:

“that all the variables were significantly better in the intervention groups than in the Control Group, thus strengthening the importance of the association between IMT and Pilates.”

In conclusion

“In conclusion, physiotherapy is an excellent ally in the prevention, promotion, and maintenance of health, quality of life and functional capacity in the gerontological population. The use of the Pilates Studio method, associated with technological equipment that allows more detailed analysis and treatment of pulmonary conditions, strength, function and mobility, was shown to be beneficial for this type of application.”

The influence of inspiratory muscle training combined with the Pilates method on lung function in elderly women: A randomized controlled trial >

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