How to get fit and lower your blood pressure ... by breathing

10 April 2019 - 07:09 By Stender von Oehsen
A volunteer demonstrates inspiratory muscle strength training at the University of Colorado in Boulder, US.
A volunteer demonstrates inspiratory muscle strength training at the University of Colorado in Boulder, US.
Image: CU Boulder

What if you could improve your health by breathing for five minutes while watching TV?

You can, according to US researchers who studied the benefits of strengthening the muscles you use to inhale.

“Inspiratory muscle strength training” (IMST) reduces the risk of heart attacks and even boosts cognitive performance, University of Colorado Boulder physiologists found.

People who took part in a clinical trial of the technique had lower blood pressure, improved artery function and better performance in memory tests.

The exercise itself is much simpler than its name, and all that is needed is a small handheld device called an inspiratory muscle trainer that provides resistance when breathing in.

“IMST is basically strength-training for the muscles you breathe in with,” said Daniel Craighead, a researcher in UC Boulder’s integrative policy department.

“It’s something you can do quickly in your home or office, without having to change your clothes.”

This exercise could provide a more efficient method for working adults to maintain heart health.

“Our goal is to develop time-efficient, evidence-based interventions that busy mid-life adults will actually perform,” said professor Doug Seals, director of UC Boulder’s Integrative Physiology of Ageing Laboratory.

Seals presented his preliminary findings of the clinical trial of about 50 subjects at a conference this week in Orlando, Florida.

The technique could have an immense impact in a country such as SA, where heart disease is the third-leading cause of death from disease according to Stats SA, trailing only tuberculosis and diabetes.

“Having another option in the toolbox to help prevent it would be a real victory,” said researcher Craighead.

In sport, runners and cyclists are already using these devices to gain an advantage. Some inspiratory muscle trainers are already being sold commercially.

Craighead and Seals recommended that anyone interested in IMST should consult their doctors before starting the training.