My thoughts on breathing...
A bit more information as it occurs to me about how breathing impacts your health and well-being. If you have questions or want me to address a particular topic, please don't hesitate to contact me!
As we continue on with our series on inspiratory muscle training, we are going to talk about how training your breathing muscles can improve your balance. Yes, that's right, I said balance. I know you must be wondering how breathing muscles affect balance, so let's start with a little talk about one of the other functions of the diaphragm: postural control.
Back in 2000, researchers discovered that the diaphragm would contract during movements that affected the trunk, that were not related to breathing. This contraction they discovered, increased the pressure within the abdomen and therefore caused increased stiffness (or stability) of the trunk. Since that time, numerous studies have looked at the role of the diaphragm in postural stability and some very interesting results have occurred.
One study found that fatiguing the diaphragm changed the way a person responds to balance challenges. Normally, when we are faced with unstable surfaces (standing on soft ground, walking on a suspension bridge), the muscles in our back along the spine will contract to keep us upright and steady. But if you fatigue your breathing muscles, researchers found that the back muscles can't do their job properly and then the muscles in the ankle are used more, which actually leads to less stability (you sway more). This is significant because in some respiratory diseases (and in aging) the respiratory muscles can become weakened. This could impact balance and lead to an increase in falls among those groups.
Which leads to the next study, where researchers then looked at the effects of 8 weeks of inspiratory muscle training on a group of otherwise health older adults. The results were surprising. They found that performing IMT for 8 weeks not only improved respiratory muscle function, but it also improved balance! Falls are a major health concern for our older population, so these results are promising.
So again, another seemingly far reaching effect of training your breathing muscles. This isn't anything wild and far-fetched though. It's using simple strength training principles on a muscle we previously hadn't really thought of as benefiting from getting stronger. Because the diaphragm has such an influence over a number of systems (respiratory, muscular, gastrointestinal, cardiac) then we can certainly draw some conclusions as to the benefits of having it function as best as it possibly can!
Stay tuned as we explore a bit more of the influence on your gut function in our next segment!
I'm a physiotherapist who is passionate about educating anyone and everyone about the impact breathing has on our health.