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Training Breathing Muscles Improves Swimmer's Performance

A study conducted by researchers in University at Buffalo Center for Research and Education in Special// Environments (CRESE), shows that swimmers and scuba divers can improve their swimming endurance and breathing capacity through targeted training of the respiratory muscles.

In this pioneering work, subjects who followed a resistance-breathing training protocol (breathing load) improved their respiratory muscle strength and their snorkel swimming time by 33 percent and underwater scuba swimming time by 66 percent, compared to their baseline values. Participants randomized to a similar protocol requiring high respiratory flow rates (endurance) improved their respiratory endurance and surface and underwater swimming times by 38 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

The group randomized to a placebo-training program, conducted with the same equipment and protocol, showed no significant improvement in respiratory or swimming performance.

Results of the study appeared in the December online issue of the European Journal of Applied Physiology and will appear in printnext month.

"Specific respiratory muscle training could allow divers in the military, civilian rescue services, commercial enterprises and sport to perform better underwater," said Claes E.G. Lundgren, M.D., Ph.D., professor of physiology and biophysics in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the study's senior author.

David R. Pendergast, Ed.D., professor of physiology and biophysics, adjunct professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and CRESE director, along with his research group, were instrumental in the research.

Lundgren said that training the breathing muscles to improve the performance of swimming muscles seems counter-intuitive, but is logical physiologically.

"Typically, we think it's the muscles that move the body that are fatigued when we tire," he noted. "However, the increased work load of the b
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