We all know that cardiovascular exercise can help lower blood pressure, but did you know that breathing exercises can offer the same benefits? A study from the Journal of American Heart Association found that a strategic five-minute breathing exercise is as effective as medication or exercise for lowering blood pressure.
Called Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training, or IMST, the breathing exercise requires breathing through a device that restricts your inhale, prompting you to breathe more forcefully. The technique was initially developed to strengthen lung capacity for patients with asthma and other respiratory challenges. During the study, 18 adults with elevated blood pressure breathed through an IMST device for five minutes, six days a week. 18 other adults did a placebo breathing exercise.
After six weeks, the researchers found that IMST breathing reduced the group’s systolic blood pressure by an average of nine points. They also had a 45 percent increase in vascular endothelial function, the arteries’ ability to expand when necessary. Lead study author Daniel Craighead, Ph.D. said, “We found not only is [high resistance IMST] more time-efficient than traditional exercise programs, the benefits may be longer-lasting.”
Although the breathing exercise was highly effective, the researchers note that it should not substitute for exercise or medication, as those offer other additional benefits, but rather complement them for improved results.
Source study: Journal of American Heart Association – Take a Deep, Resisted, Breath