This quick breathing ‘workout’ said to increase heart and brain health. - Dispatch Weekly

April 12, 2019 - Reading time: 6 minutes

Research scientists share a technique called ‘Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training’ (IMST).

Essentially, IMST training aims to strengthen the muscles we use to breathe. It’s designed to take up only five minutes of your day and uses a small handheld device. The IMST technique is said to help better your heart, body and brain.

High blood pressure affects more than 25 per cent of UK adults. The condition, which is also known as hypertension, puts extra pressure on blood vessels and vital organs.

Scientists at the annual Experimental Biology Meeting presented preliminary evidence supporting this is a new way of working out, claiming it is as beneficial for lung capacity and blood pressure as 30 minutes of daily aerobic exercise. Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder describe how early trials suggest that IMST; lowers blood pressure, improves blood vessel health, improves cognitive health, and increases exercise tolerance time.

IMST was initially developed in the 1980s as a method to deter people off using ventilators. Patients with lung diseases performed a daily regimen of 30 minutes to boost their lung capacity. In 2016, the University of Arizona researchers conducted a trial to see if 30 inhalations per day could help people to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

The patients not only reported more restful sleep but after six weeks their systolic blood pressure also decreased by 12 millimetres of mercury. This is a crucial improvement as 65 per cent of mid-life adults have high systolic blood pressure.

Lead author Daniel Craighead, Ph.D., tells reporters he is hopeful that people will adopt the device due to the how easy it is to use.

“High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is the number one cause of death in America,” said Craighead. “Having another option in the toolbox to help prevent it would be a real victory.”

“It’s something you can do quickly in your home or office, without having to change your clothes, and so far it looks like it is very beneficial to lower blood pressure and possibly boost cognitive and physical performance.”

“It’s very time efficient so we hope that a person who has a reason to try it out — they have high blood pressure, or they want to keep their blood pressure under control — would adopt this as something they can do daily, like brushing their teeth,” Craighead says.

How does it work?

“IMST is basically strength-training for the muscles you breathe in with,” said Daniel Craighead

IMST resistance device called an inspiratory muscle trainer, which provides resistance, using it for 30 breaths, twice a day, increasing resistance as your breathing gets stronger.

You can do this on its own or incorporate it as part of your training plan, either as a warm-up, cool-down or training station between workouts.

What are the inspiratory muscles?

We have two types of respiratory muscles, inspiratory and expiratory. The inspiratory muscles contract to draw air into the lungs. The most important muscle of inspiratory is the diaphragm; however, the external intercostals assist with normal quiet breathing. Contraction of the diaphragm increases the space in the thoracic cavity and the lungs fill with air from the external environment. Accessory muscles of inspiratory– sternocleidomastoids, scalenes, serratus, pectoralis – contribute less during normal breathing periods and more during active breathing periods,  e.g., during exercise and forced breathing manoeuvres. Expiration is a passive process because the lungs naturally want to recoil inward and collapse. During expiration, the lungs deflate without much effort from our muscles.


More on IMST

Although Dr. Craighead is still conducting the IMST study and collecting data so that he can get doctors to encourage patients to use it. A company called PowerBreathe have put these devices on the market. There’s a big range in how much they cost however there is no evidence yet that the more expensive ones yield better results.

Craighead does caution people to talk to their doctor before taking up this, as it is considered a form of high-intensity physical training, so it is important that people consult a professional to make sure that it’s the right health choice for them.

Here are some links where you can get the authentic devices below:

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.