Minute Breathing Activity Could Assist with Lower Blood Pressure

Chances are, you know that deep breaths can help relieve stress. But according to new research from the University of Colorado, a 5-minute breathing exercise called “strength training for your respiratory muscles” could help lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health.

The 2023 study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, suggests that so-called high-strength inspiratory muscle strength training (Imst) may lead to changes that lower your risk of cardiovascular health-issue. Even better ? The effects of this ultra-mini workout are equal – or possibly greater-than those of the exercise.

If you’re one of the 108 million Americans with high blood pressure or just care about protecting your heart, you might be thinking: This sounds good, but how do I get started? And can an exercise like this benefit everyone?

Read on to learn more about the study’s findings, what they could mean for you, and how to add this breathing exercise to your routine.

HOW A BREATHING EXERCISE CAN HELP LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE?

Just as heavy weights allow you to reap the benefits of building muscle while lifting, it is the resistance aspect of this breathing exercise that leads to improvements in cardiovascular health.

During the study, participants took extra deep breaths by using a wearable device called POWERbreathe K3 to suck in air against about 90 centimeters of water resistance. For the diet, half of the 36 otherwise healthy elderly people with above normal systolic blood pressure tried a short, high-intensity version of IMST with 30 breaths per day, six days a week. The other half have a placebo training with a much lower resistance.

On average, those who completed IMST had an average decrease in their systolic blood pressure of 9 points. That’s more than what some people have experienced after adding five days of 30-minute walks to their week.

They also experienced a significant increase in nitric oxide levels (which decrease with age), a 45% improvement in vascular endothelial function, and a decrease in inflammatory markers and oxidative stress. Translation: Your arteries were more flexible and had higher protection against plaque buildup. Together, these measures indicate a potentially lower risk of heart strike.

“We don’t yet know everything that changes, but what we think is that when you breathe really deeply, that helps in pumping blood throughout the body,” explains Daniel H. Craighead, PhD, author of the study and professor of research deputy Laboratory of Integrative Physiology of Aging at CU Boulder. “This higher blood flow can help improve your cardiovascular system.”

CAN ANYONE BENEFIT FROM THIS, IMST?

“We believe that almost everyone can benefit from this exercise,” Craighead says. A similar study of healthy young mature who practiced IMST found that their blood pressure also decreased.

For his part, Craighead uses exercise to complete his marathon training. Other research suggests that breathing strength training could bring additional health benefits such as increased breathing, muscle strength and performance.

HOW TO TRY IMST

As with any new fitness routine, it’s important to consult your doctor or health care professional before starting IMST because it’s a higher-intensity workout, Craighead says.

It is also important to remember that IMST does not replace your training. There are many things that aerobic exercise can do that IMST won’t like — like strengthening the muscles in your arms and legs.

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Once you get the OK to start IMST, you can buy a breathing trainer like the one used in the study of the POWERbreathe series. While you’re shopping, remember to look for a device that can last up to at least 90 centimeters of water resistance. If you are young or active, Craighead recommends climbing even higher to 150 centimeters or more for effective training.

After that, it’s as easy as 30 breaths a day, six days a week. “Because it’s so fast, you can do it while you’re watching TV or cooking dinner,” Craighead says.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you’re approved for IMST, this 5-minute breathing exercise could be a very quick workout to add to your healthy heart routine. Although further research is needed, the initial results seem promising. Many of us could use the boost in terms of cardiovascular health, so IMST might be worth a try with other heart-protecting moves like healthy eating and regular exercise.

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