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Respiratory Muscle Strength Training

By Chris Dinesen Rogers ; Updated August 14, 2017

Your body responds to exercise in several ways to increase its efficiency. Your respiratory health affects your ability to breathe. Exercise can improve your fitness by strengthening the muscles which aid breathing. With exercise, the physical structure of your lungs changes to increase your endurance and energy production. Consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.

Respiratory Benefits of Strength Training

Increasing the strength of your respiratory muscles benefits you by increasing your respiratory volumes. These volumes measure the amount of air you can inhale and exhale, as well as the residual amount that remains in your lungs. Increasing your respiratory volumes allows your body to deliver oxygen to cells more quickly. Energy production to fuel your activity is more efficient in the presence of oxygen.

Target Heart Zone

Respiratory muscle strength training is dependent upon exercising within your target heart zone. This zone is when your heart is beating at 50 to 75 percent of its maximum rate. As with any muscle, the act of increasing your respiratory rate exercises these muscles. You can calculate your target heart zone by subtracting your age from 220, then multiplying that figure by 0.5 and 0.75. Exercising within this heart rate range increases your endurance and fitness.

Training Your Heart and Lungs

If you have been inactive for a period of time, you will need to begin slowly to get your body accustomed to the new demands of exercise. The American Heart Association recommends beginning your training at the lower end of your target heart zone, as your heart and lungs work together to support your workout. Building muscle strength in either of these organs takes time and effort. As you become stronger, you can increase the intensity of your workouts to the higher end of your zone.

Respiratory Strength Workout

Perform aerobic exercises that work the large muscle groups of your body three to five days per week for 30 to 60 minutes per session to strengthen your respiratory muscles. Running, jogging and cycling work the large muscles of your lower body -- quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves. Work the large muscles of your upper body, such as your back muscles -- lattissimus dorsi and trapezius, shoulders -- deltoids, chest -- pectoral muscles, and arms -- biceps and triceps with exercises such as swimming, rowing and boxing. During exercise, your muscles have an increased need for oxygen, increasing the strength required by your respiratory system. With regular exercise, your heart and lung muscles become stronger and more efficient, making it easier to deliver oxygen to your muscles.

When to Seek Medical Advice

Jumping into respiratory muscle strength training may not be appropriate for certain individuals. Anyone with asthma, diabetes or a chronic health condition managed by medications should consult a doctor before increasing exercise. If you smoke or have a family history of heart disease, you may also want to discuss your training goals with your doctor.

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