J. Murphey, A. Lafrenz

Concordia University, Portland, OR

Breathwork, or the specific act of controlling breathing to elicit a desired outcome, is not only a potential way to improve one’s mental well-being but also to alter adaptation responses through gas exchange at the capillary level. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of incorporating nasal only breathing and breath mechanics on carbon dioxide (CO2) tolerance and functional training power in adult cyclists. METHODS: Twenty-four subjects (male n=15, female n=9, age 34 ± 5 years; height 173.36± 8.03 cm; mass 69.97±8.33 kg; Fat mass 16.60±5.07%) were randomly assigned to experimental or control groups (n=14, n=10 respectively). All participants completed baseline testing of maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max), CO2 Tolerance (CO2Tol), and functional threshold power at CO2 Tolerance (FTPCO2). Subjects also completed the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) questionnaire during the FTPCO2 test to access state and trait stress and anxiety (SA and TA respectively) levels when breathing was restricted to the nasopharynx. Experimental subjects completed specific apnea and nasal only breathing protocols, daily. Control subjects completed random, non-focused breathing exercises. All subjects were blinded to which group they were in. Follow up testing was conducted 6- weeks post-baseline tests. ANCOVA and difference in baseline characteristics were analyzed. RESULTS: The experimental group showed improvement in CO2Tol (20.6±11.3 seconds, p=.0001), FTPCO2 (23.6±30.6 watts, p=.0001), and SA (.4±.3, p=.00001). Control subjects saw a slight improvement in SA (.4±.3, p=.03) and no improvement in CO2Tol or FTPCO2 (.2±3.3 seconds and .3±7.2 watts, p=.8 and p=.4 respectively). CONCLUSION: This study supports the implementation of nasal and apnea breathing protocols as a viable training tool for improving sub-maximal power output in cyclists. This improvement could potentially lead to higher overall aerobic outputs as well as lowering overall fatigue in longer racing or training bouts. Secondarily, increasing tolerance to CO2 and improving breathing mechanics may reduce state anxiety. This can be particularly valuable for high stress/risk environments or sports that require significant amounts of concentration.

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