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Science File / An exploration of issues and trends
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I Didn't Know That

July 02, 1998

Q: Do the nasal strips worn by some professional athletes actually help them breath?

A: No, according to physical therapy expert Frank Cerny of the State University of New York at Buffalo. They may make breathing through the nose easier during low or moderate activity, such as a slow jog or leisurely cycling, but not at high levels of exercise.

Cerny studied a physiological condition called the "switch point," the moment at which an athlete performing a high-intensity task changes from breathing through the nose to breathing through the mouth because the demand for oxygen increases. To be effective, the nasal strips would have to extend the time to "switch point" beyond that reached normally. The devices did not, he reported recently at a meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine.

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