There are two predominant mechanisms for Pilates that can benefit asthma sufferers : postural training and breath work . Chronic asthma sufferers tend to exhibit a thoracic kyphosis with a flattening in the lumbo-sacral region . This malalignment leads to decreased respiratory capacity , and can have serious effects on visceral or internal organ function. Research has shown that these related abnormalities can be improved upon with postural retraining, which makes Pilates a wonderful option.
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A 1991 study found that postural retraining can correct thoracic kyphosis and improve breathing (especially in cases of severe asthmatics more likely to suffer from such postural abnormalities when the pectoral and intercostal muscles are stretched). Breath work is uniquely suited for this population. Asthma results in compression of the abdominal contents, which increases intra-abdominal pressure and puts pressure on the lower ribs (laterally, upward and outward) and the upper ribs (posterior and anterior).
This motion results in increased thoracic volume, which decreases intrathoracic pressure and facilitates inspiration and the overextension of already-overinflated lungs . This is then worsened by the increased dead-space ventilation, metabolic requirements and a tendency to maintain a low arterial partial pressure of oxygen.
Asthmatics can have decreased chest expansion and deformity as a result of a shortened diaphragm, intercostals and accessory muscles from prolonged spasms. Diaphragmatic breathing exercises have also been proven to reduce patients™ anxiety levels and to alter their attitude toward work, while breath retraining has been shown to decrease bronchodilator use and acute exacerbations and improve quality of life . In 1981, researchers found that deep diaphragmatic and pursed-lip breathing can increase a lung patient’s maximal exercise tolerance.
So, in short Pilates, applied appropriately, is a perfect choice for asthmatics . Additional benefits of Pilates exercises for asthmatics include: postural correctives, core-muscle strengthening, diaphragmatic and lower-costal breath education , and increased chest expansion .
Studies have demonstrated that focused breathing exercises can increase the amount of air a person can forcefully exhale in one second (FEV1), after taking the deepest breath possible (FVC), and to create a significant reduction in RV, the amount of air that remains in a one’s lungs after maximum exhalation. All of these effects improve respiratory capacity and overall health. In addition, evidence has indicated that breathing exercises can decrease the work of breathing , improve ventilation , decrease oxygen consumption and diminish anxiety.
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