updated 11/29/2006 5:42:15 PM ET 2006-11-29T22:42:15

Some people live and breathe their religion.

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Turns out going to church might actually help them breathe easier. Researchers measured the breathing of 1,189 people aged 70 to 79. Those who attend church regularly scored better on a test that measures pulmonary flow rate.

The findings could not be explained by differences in smoking or physical activity, the scientists said.

"Pulmonary function is an important indicator of respiratory and overall health, yet little is known about the psychosocial factors that might predict pulmonary function," said Temple University’s Joanna Maselko. "At the same time, religious activity is emerging as a potential health promoting factor, especially among the elderly. We wanted to determine whether there was a connection between the two."

A study earlier this year found that churchgoers live longer, too. Church could benefit health in several ways, Maselko and her colleagues speculate. It provides social contact and emotional support, reducing the isolation many older people experience and boosting psychological well-being.

The results are detailed in the November issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

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