As children, breathing was the first thing we had to deal with when exercising. I still vividly remember my first trail run in elementary school. No one ever explained to me how to manage my efforts, and I had stitches halfway through; my body needed more air than my lungs could absorb, causing my body to burn. I couldn’t be older than 8 or 9, but the memory of being the only kid who had to walk half the race stayed with me.
• Just 5-10 minutes a day
• 45-day money-back guarantee
• 2 year warranty
• Made in Denmark
• MSRP: EUR 299
Modern athletes are familiar with breaking down training into specific chunks—perhaps they lift weights for strength or ride long distances for endurance—which is so common that it requires little explanation. However, how many times have you heard people talk about the most basic parts of your performance? How many of us train our breathing?
A quick Google search for “breathing training” mostly results in dealing with anxiety and stress or lung conditions like COPD, with little mention of exercise. That’s odd, especially since emerging science shows that breathing exercises alone can help improve not only your athletic performance, but your overall health as well.
Airofit was one of the first companies to recognize the potential of breathing training and created the eponymous device.
At its most basic, the Airofit is a T-shaped assembly with a mouthpiece attached to a small barrel with vents on both ends. There is a beveled wheel on each vent that allows you to increase or decrease the resistance to passing air.
When you breathe into the Airofit, a small computer mounted on the barrel controls which vent opens, passing information about the volume and velocity of the air to its app. The idea is that by opening and closing the vents to restrict airflow, you train your lungs to work harder.
When you turn on the device, the app takes you through a lung test to measure the force and volume you can inhale and exhale. It then chooses a training course based on those numbers and your most recent training. Airofit puts a lot of emphasis on its convenience – currently it sets me up for a 30-second lung test, 3 minutes of inhalation exercise, and 3-4 minutes of assistive exercise to complement this. They say you should be able to fit into your day in 3-10 minutes.
Before we dive into this review, I need to state that I believe Airofit does exactly what they say they do. I even describe the results as impressive, I could feel my lung function improve after just a few weeks of use, and there are data to back up my feelings. It does provide a level of performance improvement beyond what I’ve found so far – I’ve been doing the Wim Hof breathing exercises since January and I’d say the Airofit’s benefits are more clear.
Opening the box, my first impression of the Airofit was actually disappointment. I’ve tested some performance-enhancing devices recently—like the similarly priced Oura ring—but it’s not built to the same standard. Oura obviously put a lot of time and effort into making their ring desirable, and Airofit feels practical. That’s not to say it feels cheap or poorly made, but by setting themselves a price tag of 300 euros, they’re creating expectations that don’t match mine. If the device were priced at 50 euros, this paragraph would read very differently.
I became more sensitive to the cost of the device when I realised that part of the app required an additional subscription – another €6 per month. Maybe it’s my personal feeling, but I tend to feel that you can either do a subscription service or a high unit price, not both. Although, maybe it would have felt better if they unlocked the advanced data fields in the app and renamed the service to Personalized Training.
Before training each day, the app runs lung tests to calibrate the difficulty of the training.
The progress of training is easy to see in the data and feel on the bike.
Loading the app for the first time, again the experience wasn’t great – it felt basic and a bit low quality compared to other apps I use regularly for training and fitness. The explainer videos felt jarring, not fully integrated into the app, and the practice routines were a bit disorienting. The part I find consistently objectionable is the “Compliance” score in the top right corner. Even though I was practicing as hard as I could, the scores dropped frustratingly every time. Compliance may be a precise term for lab experiments, but for consumer products it feels pretty harsh.
The practice itself is very intense. Even after a few minutes of restricted airflow, my prescribed beginner level practice felt like I was working all the time. Curiosity led me to try an intermediate workout but I couldn’t finish it, it was brutal. Don’t get me wrong, brutality can have a place in a training program, but it requires thoughtful consideration. I’ve been following Wim Hof’s breathing exercises for the past few months, which can sometimes be brutal with long breath-holds, but he understands that some rewards are needed – and I feel great after finishing the Wims exercises. Airofit doesn’t seem to pay anything – it’s just hard work.
Then there’s the final baseboard – handy. Training isn’t an elegant thing – the contraption spits out of your mouth, splattered with saliva, and quite disgusting. The question is what do you do with the equipment after the training? It comes in a mesh bag, which is not the ideal material to hold saliva. I think the concept of convenience means you can train where and when it suits you, but if you can’t easily carry it, how can you? A tough plastic suitcase solves all of these problems, and for the asking price of 300 euros, I find it unforgivable that they didn’t address it.
+ Relatively fast and impressive results
+ Huge potential to change overall health, not just exercise
+ hard training session
– Expensive – high initial cost and subscription
– App feels a bit basic
– hard training session
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