Inspiratory muscle training (IMT) improves the strength and endurance of the muscles that enable your lungs to inhale, and has been shown to boost lung capacity in healthy people, as well as those with chronic conditions. It’s often used in pulmonary rehabilitation programs to help people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — like emphysema — reduce shortness of breath and improve exercise tolerance. Recent studies are also showing improved performance in some endurance athletes who undergo IMT, but the most significant benefits are seen in people with very low levels of fitness.
IMT involves inhaling against resistance using a device called an inspiratory muscle trainer; there are several different types on the market. Some training regimens involve a single session, several times a week, and others involve multiple sessions per day. The best device and training schedule for you depends on your health status and goals; your best bet is to ask your health care provider for a recommendation.
Like many training techniques, IMT isn’t without controversy; some people respond to it and some people don’t. If your lungs are healthy, you have a moderate-to-high fitness level, and you’re not looking to set any world records, may not experience a huge benefit from this type of training. But it doesn’t hurt to try; IMT is considered a very low-risk activity.