Older adults’ participation in habitual exercise might be affected by alterations to respiratory mechanics such as decreased respiratory-muscle strength. This reduction can cause a decrease in efficiency of the ventilatory pump, potentially compromising exercise participation. This research examined the role of habitual exercise in respiratory-muscle function and the associated implications for exercise performance. Seventy-two healthy older adults (36 men, 64.9 ± 8.6 years, 177.2 ± 8.4 cm, 82.5 ± 11.9 kg; 36 women, 64.9 ± 9.5 years, 161.7 ± 6.4 cm, 61.6 ± 9.2 kg) undertook respiratory-function and walking-performance tests. Active men and women achieved higher scores than their inactive counterparts for all tests except spirometry, where no differences were evident. The results indicate that a significant amount of the elevated fitness level might be accounted for by increased endurance capacity of the inspiratory muscles. Inactive older individuals might be at risk for inadequate respiratory-muscle strength, so interventions should be considered.
The authors are with the School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism, University of Technology, Sydney, Lindfield, NSW 2070 Australia.