Helium/oxygen mixture reduces airflow limitations, lung dynamic hyperinflation and sensation of shortness of breath
It certainly makes sense: COPD sufferers have varying degrees of serious breathing difficulties, which keeps them from almost any kind of exercise, especially in advanced stages. So maybe "lighter than air" air would be easier to breath, reduce shortness of breath and perhaps even allow them to do some exercise with all of its physical and mental benefits.
A group of Italian researchers reports in the November issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology that while breathing a low-density mixture of 79% helium and 21% oxygen (called heliox), the length of time that 12 COPD patients could do real exercise was 9 minutes, versus only 4.2 minutes for 12 patients breathing regular air (79% nitrogen/21% oxygen). And the exercise involved wasnt trivial: The subjects cycled "until exhaustion" at a rate of 50 rpm at 80% of their maximal rate measured several days earlier while on air.
Mayer Resnick | EurekAlert!
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