A 5-minute breathing exercise may be better for blood pressure than meds

Researchers from the University of Colorado-Boulder just discovered a quick and easy way to regulate blood pressure — a problem that afflicts about 108 million or 45% of people in the U.S. and can lead to other serious illnesses like stroke and heart disease.

The new paper focuses on High-Resistance Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST), an exercise where people use a hand-held inhalation device that provides resistance as they breathe into it. This breathing tool can lower one’s blood pressure as efficiently as traditional exercise and prescription medication, according to the researchers.

What you need to know about IMST

IMST exercises were originally developed to treat patients suffering from chronic respiratory conditions. These patients would breathe into IMST devices as it sucked the air back in — creating resistance.

Over the course of the new study, half of the participants performed IMST inhalations for 30 minutes six days a week for six weeks. The other half were tasked with a placebo exercise that had them use similar breathing devices at a significantly lower resistance.

All of the participants were between the ages of 50 and 79 and all had a history of systolic blood pressure (alternatively referred to as hypertension).

Consistently, the participants belonging to the IMST group saw their systolic blood pressure decreased by an average of nine points. This was found to be a much larger decrease compared to results seen among patients who walked 30 minutes a day for five days a week in independently conducted studies.

IMST has other health benefits

It didn’t take long for medical experts to observe a series of benefits associated with IMST exercises outside of improved breathing; IMST was also determined to improve cardiovascular health.

Moreover, the authors posit that just five minutes of IMST can yield similar outcomes. The IMST group enjoyed healthy blood pressure levels six weeks after they stopped the breathing resistance training.

“There are a lot of lifestyle strategies we know can help people maintain cardiovascular health as they age. But the reality is, they take a lot of time and effort and can be expensive and hard for some people to access,” says lead author Daniel Craighead in a university release. “IMST can be done in five minutes in your own home while you watch TV.”

Even better, breathing training devices can be purchased for between $100 and $360 from health department stores.

The new study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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