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The Effects of Inspiratory Muscle Training in Older Adults


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: April 2015 - Volume 47 - Issue 4 - p 691–697
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000474
Clinical Sciences

Purpose Declining inspiratory muscle function and structure and systemic low-level inflammation and oxidative stress may contribute to morbidity and mortality during normal ageing. Therefore, we examined the effects of inspiratory muscle training (IMT) in older adults on inspiratory muscle function and structure and systemic inflammation and oxidative stress, and reexamined the reported positive effects of IMT on respiratory muscle strength, inspiratory muscle endurance, spirometry, exercise performance, physical activity levels (PAL), and quality of life (QoL).

Methods Thirty-four healthy older adults (68 ± 3 yr) with normal spirometry, respiratory muscle strength, and physical fitness were divided equally into a pressure-threshold IMT or sham-hypoxic placebo group. Before and after an 8-wk intervention, measurements were taken for dynamic inspiratory muscle function and inspiratory muscle endurance using a weighted plunger pressure-threshold loading device; diaphragm thickness by using B-mode ultrasonography; plasma cytokine concentrations by using immunoassays; DNA damage levels in peripheral blood mononuclear cells by using comet assays; spirometry, maximal mouth pressures, and exercise performance by using a 6-min walk test; PAL by using a questionnaire and accelerometry; and QoL using a questionnaire.

Results Compared with placebo, IMT increased maximal inspiratory pressure (+34% ± 43%, P = 0.008), diaphragm thickness at residual volume (+38% ± 39%, P = 0.03), and peak inspiratory flow (+35% ± 42%, P = 0.049) but did not change other spirometry measures, plasma cytokine concentrations, DNA damage levels in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, dynamic inspiratory muscle function, inspiratory muscle endurance, exercise performance, PAL, or QoL.

Conclusion These novel data indicate that in healthy older adults, IMT elicits some positive changes in inspiratory muscle function and structure but neither attenuates systemic inflammation and oxidative stress nor improves exercise performance, PAL, or QoL.

1Sport, Health and Performance Enhancement (SHAPE) Research Group, School of Science and Technology, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, England, UNITED KINGDOM; 2Trent Cardiac Centre, Nottingham City Hospital Campus, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Nottingham, England, UNITED KINGDOM

Address for correspondence: Dean Mills, PhD, Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute, The University of Queensland, Royal Children’s Hospital, Brisbane, Australia 4029; E-mail:

Submitted for publication April 2014.

Accepted for publication August 2014.

© 2015 American College of Sports Medicine