A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association recently found that a five-minute breathing workout can lower blood pressure in many people as much as exercise and drugs.
Working out just five minutes daily via a practice called Inspiratory Muscle Strength training (IMST), described as “strength training for your breathing muscles,” lowers blood pressure and improves some measures of vascular health as well as, or even more than, aerobic exercise or medication according to research by University of Colorado at Boulder.
IMST was developed in the 1980s to help respiratory disease patients strengthen their diaphragm and related muscles.
- 1 What is IMST?
- 2 University of Colorado Blood Pressure and Breathe Training Study
- 3 3 Best Inspiratory muscle strength training devices
- 5 Deep Breathing apps
- 5 Best Blood Pressure apps for monitoring and tracking
- 4 best blood pressure monitors that work with the Samsung Health app
- 4 best Google Fit-compatible blood pressure monitors
- 3 Best Blood Pressure Monitors to use with Apple’s Health app
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What is IMST?
IMST requires you to breathe through a handheld device that provides resistance when you inhale through it.
Past studies have found that Inspiratory muscle training improves sleep and mitigates cardiovascular dysfunction in obstructive sleep apnea.
Given that the new study shows the efficacy of inspiratory muscle training for people with high blood pressure, the popularity of these devices has been increasing.
University of Colorado Blood Pressure and Breathe Training Study
For this study, the researchers recruited 36 otherwise healthy adults ages 50 to 79 with above-normal systolic blood pressure (120 millimeters of mercury or higher). Half did High-Resistance IMST for six weeks, and half did a placebo protocol in which the resistance was much lower.
After six weeks, the IMST group saw their systolic blood pressure (the top number) dip nine points on average, a reduction which generally exceeds that achieved by walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week. That decline also equals the effects of some blood pressure-lowering drug regimens.
Even more surprising is that even six weeks after they quit doing IMST, the IMST group maintained most of that improvement.
If you are currently not using a digital/portable blood pressure monitor that integrates with Apple Health, you should consider one of these excellent blood pressure monitors.
3 Best Inspiratory muscle strength training devices
Since IMST devices are gaining popularity, we researched some of the best and most affordable devices.
With these devices, you learn how to train your breathing and take deep breaths repeatedly to improve your health and fitness, including lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow. These exercises strengthen our respiratory system, particularly the diaphragm and muscles of the ribcage.
Airofit PRO Breathing Exercise Device + Virtual Coaching app
The Airofit Pro breathing exercise device may not be the most affordable device by any means, but it is a top-of-the-line strength training device that features all the bells and whistles you can expect from a top-of-the-line product.
- BREATHING EXERCISER - Airofit Pro is a precision lung exerciser device with more than 5 years of...
- BETTER HEART AND BRAIN HEALTH - Using Airofit Pro for at least 10 minutes daily can strengthen your...
The offering includes the breathing exerciser and an interactive app that coaches you to make the most out of these breathing exercises.
The Airofit PRO does measure vital lung capacity. However, as it is not a medical device, the readings from the Airofit may be +/- 15% of what a medical spirometer reads.
The breathing exercise device comes with different levels of resistance that can be easily calibrated.
Removing the mouthpiece from the e-unit and rinsing it under water is easy. You can use a small amount of anti-bacterial dish soap or an alcohol swab and rinse again, making cleaning easy.
Airofit also offers a scaled-down version that’s a bit more affordable called the Airofit Active breathing trainer.
- BREATHING EXERCISER - Airofit Active is a precision lung exerciser device with more than 5 years of...
- BETTER HEART AND BRAIN HEALTH - Using Airofit Active for at least 10 minutes daily can strengthen...
This affordable model does not include Bluetooth but does include guided training sessions, adjustable resistance levels, and your training history.
And you still get the app with the Airofit Active to guide you through.
The Breather and Breather Fit
This product is more along the lines of value for money. The breather can be used as both an inspiratory muscle trainer and an expiratory muscle trainer, with calibration dials for each.
The breather has five adjustable levels—5 levels for inhalation and 5 for exhalation. If you are in therapy, your therapist can evaluate your performance and adjust the level.
- NO ONGOING COSTS- No batteries, no refills and no liquids required
- EASY TO USE- hand held and fits in your pocket with written and online video instructions
To clean the breather, you can use warm soapy water. Rinse well, shake off excess water and then air dry on a clean paper towel.
When thoroughly dried, you can store it in a plastic bag. The device’s small size makes it easy to carry on your travels as well.
The key difference between the breather and breather fit is that the fit has higher resistance.
The new Breather Fit builds from the success of the original Breather and is designed to help professional athletes, triathletes, and Olympians gain a competitive edge.
3. Expand-a-Lung Breathing Fitness Exercisor
This is the most affordable yet dependable option regarding breathing exercise devices. Priced at less than $30, this compact device offers both inhaling and exhaling resistance levels.
- Quickly Improves Breathing - Get fast results with Expand-A-Lung thanks to our smart original...
- Easy To Use - Simply place mouthpiece in mouth and adjust the single adjustment knob to provide the...
Easy to clean, this no-frill breathing fitness exerciser weighs less than 3 ounces and is easy to carry when you travel.
Breathing Fitness exercise gadgets are not new and have been used for many years by people with various respiratory or pulmonary problems.
Consistent use of breathing exercise devices has also shown improvements in VO2 max in athletes. Many Divers and endurance athletes use this training to boost their oxygen capacity.
Given the new research showing the benefits of deep breathing for blood pressure patients and people with sleep apnea, these devices are gaining more popularity with each passing day.
Deep Breathing apps
Although many apps, such as Headspace and Calm, can help you with a good breathing exercise and routine, the free Apple Breathe / Mindfulness App does a good job.
Other popular apps with users are Breathe+, Universal Breathing: Pranayama, Paced Breathing, and Breathing Zone.
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This research from the University of Colorado, Boulder, used the POWERbreathe K-Series electronic breathing training device.
It is important to state which device was used in this research, as all results are based on the protocol used and the device used which may not transfer to another type of device that uses a different method of resistance training for the inspiratory muscles.
Absolutely true. But another way of looking at this is in this type of study, they have to pick one device. Maybe this company was most cooperative. We don’t know. What we do know is the conclusions the researchers made. Based on my reading, any device that produces similar resistance should, in theory, yield similar results. This type of repertory training has been around for over 20 years and there are numerous devices that can be used. In fact, there are ways to train with no device. I wouldn’t recommend them except for the person who wants to get started right away before their device arrives.
What we need is a study comparing devices. With that data, we could make better purchasing decisions based on objectively measured pros, cons, and results with each device. My hypothesis is that if one device comes out on top, it might be the Breather Fit. The original version has been around forever, they have excellent professional customer service, and many professionally made support resources for their over 1.5 million customers. But we can’t know without a comparative study. Most of these companies have a 30 day money back satisfaction guarantee. I’d suggest picking the device that seems to best fit what you think will work best (a little placebo effect isn’t a bad thing). Then definitely return it if it wasn’t what you expected.