Hey Angels and Alphas,
In the world of male and female fitness, blood pressure is an often misunderstood and under-discussed topic. But with blood pressure relating to pretty much every bodily function, it’s one of those things we want to keep under control if we are to achieve not only the fitness results we want; but the health outcomes we desire.
Chances are, you already know that deep breaths can help ease stress. But according to a new study from the University of Colorado, a simple and short 5-minute breathing exercise which is called “strength training for your breathing muscles” may be the catalyst to helping you lower your blood pressure and improving your heart health.
The 2021 research, recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, suggests that what’s known as high-resistance inspiratory muscle strength training (also known as IMST) may lead to adaptations that lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. And what’s more? The effects of this super mini-workout are basically equal to — or potentially even greater than — those of exercise.
If you’re one of the 100+ million Americans that experience high blood pressure or you just care about protecting your heart, you might be led to think: This sounds awesome, but how do I do this? And can this exercise benefit anyone?
LET’S LEARN IT – HOW CAN THIS BREATHING EXERCISE HELP LOWER OUR BLOOD PRESSURE?
Just as heavy weight training will allow you to reap the muscle-building benefits of resistance training adaptations, it’s the resistance aspect of this breathing exercise that will lead to improvements in cardiovascular health.
During the initial study, participants were asked to take especially deep breaths by basically sucking in the air against about 80-100 centimeters of water resistance by using a hand-held device.
For the regimen, half of the 36 otherwise healthy adults with higher-than-normal systolic blood pressure tried a brief, high-intensity edition of IMST with up to 30 breaths per day, up to six days a week. The other half essentially did a placebo workout.
On average, people who completed the IMST experienced about a 9-point dip in their systolic blood pressure (on average.) That’s actually more than what some people have experienced even after adding 5 days of 30-minute walks to their routine.
Study participants also experienced a massive increase in their nitric oxide levels (which usually tends to drop as you age), as well as a 45% improvement in vascular endothelial function. Not to mention, lower overall markers of inflammation and oxidative stress.
In short, their arteries became more flexible and had better protection against plaque buildup. Bringing it together, these metrics indicate a potentially lower risk of heart complications.
CAN EVERYONE EXPERIENCE BENEFITS FROM THIS EXERCISE?
Researchers concluded that almost everyone can benefit from IMST. In fact, a similar study of younger, healthier adults who started practicing the exercise found that their blood pressure decreased.
HOW YOU CAN TRY IMST:
As is the case for pretty much any new fitness routine, it’s absolutely vital to check in with your doctor or healthcare provider before you start IMST since it does tend to be a high-intensity workout in itself.
Once you’ve gotten the OK to start IMST, you can purchase one of the breathing trainers similar to the ones used in the study – they’re from the POWERbreathe series.
When you find your chosen device, make it that goes up to at least 80-100 centimeters of water resistance.
If you’re young or active, researchers leading the study actually recommended going up even higher to 150 centimeters or more for a more effective workout.
Just note that IMST is not a replacement for your workout. There are many things normal aerobic exercise can do that IMST won’t — like helping you build more strength in your arm and leg muscles, as well as throughout the body.
After that, it’s as simple as 20-40 breaths a day, and up to 6 days a week. Because this type of exercise is so time-efficient, you can do it while you’re cooking up dinner and use it as a great way to enhance your cardiovascular endurance and overall health even when you’re outside the gym.