New 5-minute breathing exercise can help with vascular health

July 5, 2021
New 5-minute breathing exercise can help with vascular health

Scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder (UC Boulder), US, have designed a type of breathing exercise as a form of strength training mainly for respiratory muscles and overall vascular health – it would confer similar benefits as aerobic exercise. Known as High-Resistance Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST), the breathing exercise sees test subjects inhaling harshly through a handheld device; the device itself offers resistance by sucking air in the opposite direction.

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These types of exercises/therapies have been practiced since the 1980s, and traditionally, would strengthen the diaphragm and other breathing muscles through daily, low-resistance sessions lasting 30 minutes apiece. But the UC Boulder scientists have been investigating how high-resistance sessions of much shorter duration could also prove beneficial.

For the new study with IMST, the scientists recruited 36 healthy adults between the ages of 50 to 79, who had above normal systolic blood pressure: the subjects were made to perform 30 inhalations per day with an IMST device, six days a week, over a six-week period. Half of the subjects were put on a high resistance regime, the other half on a lower resistance; none of the subjects knew which group they were placed in.

An assessment conducted after six weeks showed a sharp decline in systolic blood pressure among the high-resistance group, amounting to a nine-point decline on average – this exceeds the type of decline you’d expect from walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and is equal to the decline you could expect from some drug treatments to lower blood pressure.

There was also an additional 45% improvement observed in vascular endothelial function, which is the arteries’ ability to expand when stimulated. Levels of nitric oxide, a key molecule in preventing plaque buildup, also went up, while markers of inflammation and oxidative stress lowered significantly.

Lifestyle strategies to help maintain health “take a lot of time and effort and are expensive and hard for some people to access – IMST can be done in five minutes in your own home while you watch TV,” explained Daniel Craighead, an assistant professor in UC Boulder’s Department of Integrative Physiology.

The scientists also suggest the IMST practice would be potentially helpful for postmenopausal women, and see the technique not as a replacement for aerobic exercise, but as a useful option for those who don’t have access to gym facilities, walking trails or have ailments that restrict their activities.

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Category: Features, Wellness and Complementary Therapies

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