Strength training isn’t just for biceps.
It can also provide support to the muscles that help us breathe to lower blood pressure.
A daily dose for six weeks of high-endurance inspiratory muscle strength training (IMST) lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of nine millimeters of mercury, according to a new study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
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“In our research, we found that high resistance inspiratory muscle strength training, consisting of 30 resisted inhalations per day using a handheld device, reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of 9 mmHg,” he said. lead author, Dr. Daniel Harrison Craighead.
He is a Research Assistant Professor of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder.
“This is important,” Craighead said, “because a reduction in blood pressure of this level would reduce someone’s risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems associated with high blood pressure.”
Because muscles weaken over time, strength training is often used to keep the body’s muscles healthy.
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Craighead, however, wanted to apply this same concept to the muscles that help us inhale, such as the diaphragm.
Along with other researchers, he recruited healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 82 to use a device called PowerBreathe, which provides resistance training to the muscles that help us inhale. (There are several such devices on the market.)
Study participants were asked to use the device for five minutes a day for six weeks.
It’s often called a “diaphragm exercise” because it creates resistance when we breathe, according to the PowerBreathe website.
“Just as you would use a heavier dumbbell as your biceps strength improves, you can increase the resistance of the breathing device as your breathing strength improves,” the website added.
The new study found that performing 30 breaths a day for six weeks reduced systolic blood pressure by approximately 9 millimeters of mercury, which is similar to the reduction achieved by conventional aerobic exercise such as walking, running or cycling.
The lead author of a new study said the breathing protocol “only takes 5 to 10 minutes a day, so hopefully it’s easy for people to stick to.”
“Also, the protocol only takes 5 to 10 minutes a day, so we hope it’s easy for people to stick to it,” Craighead told Fox News Digital.
“It can easily be done while doing things like watching TV or waiting for the coffee to brew.”
Lowering systolic blood pressure by 10 mm Hg reduces the risk of stroke by 35% and heart disease events by 25% by about age 65, according to a report in the British Medical Journal.
What is high blood pressure?
The American Heart Association defines normal blood pressure as less than 120/80 mm Hg.
The top number is the systolic blood pressure, which is the pressure inside the artery when the heart contracts and sends blood throughout the body.
The bottom number is diastolic blood pressure, or when the pressure in the artery when the heart is at rest and filling with blood, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
A patient is at risk for high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, if the systolic blood pressure readings are consistently 120-129, which is called high blood pressure.
People diagnosed with stage 1 hypertension have systolic blood pressure readings that consistently range between 130 and 139 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure readings that range between 80 and 89 mm Hg.
“High blood pressure is a common problem and contributes to stroke, heart failure, kidney failure and a variety of other cardiovascular complications.”
When people are diagnosed at this stage, lifestyle changes are often recommended before starting any medication.
“High blood pressure is a common problem and contributes to stroke, heart failure, kidney failure and a variety of other cardiovascular complications,” Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
“Lifestyle measures, such as restricting salt intake and losing weight, can help lower blood pressure, although many people with high blood pressure end up needing medication,” Bhatt added.
He is also executive director of interventional cardiovascular programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart & Vascular Center in Boston.
Stage 2 hypertension is when systolic blood pressure readings consistently fluctuate at 140/90 mm Hg or higher, according to the American Heart Association.
“Potentially, breathing training, as was done in this [new] study, it could help strengthen the muscles involved with breathing and also lower blood pressure,” Bhatt said.
“It seems like a safe approach,” he added, “although further studies are needed to determine how effective it might be and who the ideal candidates might be.”
People taking blood pressure medications, Bhatt said, should not stop those medications without first consulting their doctors.
“We need to do much longer studies to confirm that we actually see a lower rate of conditions associated with blood pressure in people who do this training,” said the lead author of a new study.
“I don’t think it’s a magic solution on its own,” Craighead of the University of Colorado Boulder told Fox News Digital about IMST, the process of strength training for the respiratory muscles.
“A reduction in systolic blood pressure will not be enough to completely control blood pressure in people with more than mild hypertension,” he said.
“However, so far we have seen that it is effective in people already taking antihypertensive drugs, so it could be a good adjunctive therapy to drugs.”
He also noted that it has additional benefits to conventional exercise “because breathing training is very different from running or walking, but this question still needs to be confirmed with further research.”
How does breathing training work?
Endothelial cells line the lining of blood vessels, which in turn help produce a key heart-protecting compound called nitric oxide, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Nitric oxide widens blood vessels, which promotes healthy blood flow.
The study found that six weeks of inspiratory muscle strength training increased endothelial function by 45%.
Limitations of the study
Craighead noted that his current study has some limitations, including that it only tested participants for six weeks.
“We need to do much longer studies to confirm that we actually see a lower rate of conditions associated with blood pressure in people who do this training,” he told Fox News Digital.
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He also noted that most of the participants in his study were non-Hispanic white adults, making it difficult to generalize the research to a diverse population of people.
“We need to learn how effective this breathing training is when people train on their own, without the supervision of researchers.”
All of the research was done in a controlled laboratory setting, Craighead said, so “we need to learn about the effectiveness of this breathing training when people train on their own, without the supervision of researchers”.
Needs future research
However, he hopes the study results will inspire further research into high-resistance inspiratory muscle strength training.
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“If the health benefits are confirmed in larger trials with longer treatment durations, then I can see this becoming another important tool in the toolbox to help control blood pressure,” he added. Craighead.
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“I think it’s really promising because it’s very time-efficient and so far it’s been shown to be safe in the research groups.”