Resistance breathing is a breathing exercise done with resistance, with the goal of strengthening the muscles used in respiration. Resistance is a common feature in muscle strengthening and training in other regions of the body, and some people believe incorporating resistance training into breathing is beneficial for athletes and people with breathing disorders as well. Numerous studies have been conducted to test different resistance breathing protocols and determine how effective they are for improving athletic performance and patient outcomes.
The use of resistance breathing can be seen in a number of physical disciplines like yoga, tai chi, and martial arts such as karate, where people do breathing exercises to learn to breathe deeply and evenly in a variety of conditions. In these disciplines, the resistance is provided with the use of physical obstacles like pursing the lips or holding the nose shut to increase resistance during breathing. People may meditate, hold physical poses, or engage in other activities while doing breathing exercises, under the guidance of someone trained in the discipline who provides instruction and support. Breathing exercises are performed in sets, exactly like other muscle exercises.
It is also possible to use valves, masks, and other devices for this method of breathing. This can be seen in settings like postoperative recovery, where patients may be encouraged to do breathing exercises to help their lungs recover after surgery. These devices are also used in spirometry, a type of medical testing performed to evaluate lung capacity and other functions associated with breathing. Many are available by prescription only, after a doctor evaluates a patient to determine the patient's needs and discusses the exercises with the patient.
Proponents of resistance breathing argue that it allows people to breathe more deeply, facilitates gas exchange in the lungs, and can allow people to hold their breath longer. This can be useful for athletes, especially swimmers. For people with breathing disorders, exercises to improve respiratory function can also be beneficial, and can help patients maintain their health and reduce reliance on medication.
However, this method of breathing is not necessarily safe for everyone. People interested in doing breathing exercises should discuss them with their doctors, as there may be contraindications that could make the exercises unsafe for a patient. A doctor may also have recommendations for specific exercises and activities that will be safer for a patient and can provide a referral to a respiratory therapist to get more information about breathing exercises and respiratory health.