Story at a glance
- A high blood pressure is one sign of poor health, especially for people with cardiovascular issues.
- Much like training other muscles, training muscles in the cardiovascular system can improve their function.
- Participants in a trial who did daily resistance breathing exercises were able to lower their blood pressure.
In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, a team of researchers compile data from several trials where participants used a resistance breath training machine. Over the span of six weeks, participants ages 18 to 82 would breathe using a special machine in a process called high resistance inspiratory muscle strength training or IMST. Another group would do a normal breathing session each day as a control group.
For the breath training group, using the machine to take breaths takes more effort than normal breathing. Imagine having to suck air through a straw, but more difficult.
IMST participants were instructed to take 30 breaths per day with the machine for five to seven days a week for six weeks. The team then measured systolic and diastolic blood pressure for all participants.
A blood pressure reading is usually shown as a ratio of systolic to diastolic blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
“The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.”
A normal blood pressure is under 120/80 mmHg, according to the CDC.
Participants who did the high resistance breath training saw their blood pressure drop by the second week and it continued to drop through the sixth week of the trial. Systolic blood pressure dropped by about 9 mmHg and diastolic by about 4 mmHg. The people who had the largest benefits from the training were older adults and people who were not on medications.
Blood pressure remained the same for the control group who didn’t go through resistance breath training.
These results are promising for people who wish to lower their blood pressure. Other research on IMST suggests it may have benefits for people who have kidney disease.