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Miami study shows physically fit people better able to speak/exercise at same time

12/16/2008

Miami University researchers studied the effect on speech and breathing patterns when an individual is speaking and performing aerobic work at the same time.

The findings show that physically fit people may have a greater ability to speak and exercise at the same time because they are better able to extract oxygen from air breathed in, and may have a better ability to handle a reduced volume of air.

The study, published in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research in October 2008, was co-authored by Helaine Alessio, chair of Miami's kinesiology and health department; Susan Baker Brehm, assistant professor of speech pathology and audiology; and Jenny Hipp, a former Miami graduate student.

The findings may have implications for individuals who must complete simultaneous speech and exercise for such occupational purposes as fitness/military instructors, singers performing choreography and aerobics instructors.

The study examined healthy college-age participants as they read out loud while exercising at a moderate and a moderate-high intensity level on a stationary bicycle for 18 minutes.

Not surprisingly, participants were required to take breaths more frequently during reading compared to speaking at rest. However, as the task progressed, these breaths were often taken in ungrammatical locations, i.e., not at the end of a phrase or sentence.

"Past research shows that our tendency to take breaths at grammatical locations is very strong. This study showed that the additional task of breathing to bring in enough oxygen to complete the exercise task became more important than grammatical phrasing," said Baker Brehm.

"In fact, the most significant finding in regards to breathing was that oxygen consumption - or the amount of oxygen consumed by the lungs and delivered to the working muscles - remained unaltered throughout the speaking and exercise tasks, despite less total volume of air."

This study showed that keeping oxygen consumption at the appropriate level was placed as the highest level of importance compared to speech patterns. The findings of this study also indicate that persons may improve their ability to complete speech and exercise simultaneously by increasing their fitness level.

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