How breathing training with PowerBreathe can help lower blood pressure

Suggest participates in affiliate programs with various companies. Links from the Suggest website that lead to purchases or bookings on affiliate sites generate revenue for Suggest. This means that Suggest may earn a commission if/when you click or purchase through affiliate links.

According to Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention, nearly half of American adults have hypertension, or high blood pressure. Lifestyle changes can be made to help control it, such as losing weight, eating a healthy, low-sodium diet, and exercising more. However, many of us also have to use medication.

Since hypertension is such a common problem, the scientific community has studied the situation diligently. And research suggests there’s another way to lower high blood pressure that has nothing to do with drugs or major lifestyle changes.

Instead, the study indicates that training our diaphragm and other respiratory muscles can help promote heart health and lower high blood pressure.

How Breath Training Works

The Journal of Applied Physiology recently published a study on “high resistance inspiratory muscle strength training (IMST)” and how it lowers blood pressure. Just as weightlifting in the gym can strengthen our triceps and glutes, the idea behind this study was that strengthening the muscles we use to breathe could have blood pressure lowering effects.

RELATED: Your blood type matters more than you think, especially when it comes to heart health

After five pilot trials in healthy adults ages 18 to 82, researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder wrote that the results “provide the strongest evidence to date that high-strength IMST evokes clinically significant reductions in SBP (systolic blood pressure) and DBP (diastolic blood pressure) and increases in PIMAX (maximal inspiratory oral pressures), in adult men and women.

Integrative physiologist Daniel Craighead explained to NPR that “the muscles we use to breathe atrophy, just as the rest of our muscles tend to do as we age”. To find out what happens when you train your respiratory muscles, Craighead and fellow researchers tested volunteers using a device called PowerBreathe for five minutes a day.

This portable machine is a breathing trainer that looks like an inhaler. When you breathe into it, the PowerBreathe creates resistance to work your diaphragm and other breathing muscles harder.

“We found that taking 30 breaths a day for six weeks lowers systolic blood pressure by about 9 millimeters of mercury,” Craighead said. He noted that this type of reduction would be expected with walking, cycling and other forms of conventional aerobic exercise.

It’s also the kind of reduction you might see from taking blood pressure medication, according to Dr. Michael Joyner, a Mayo Clinic physician who studies how the nervous system regulates blood pressure.

In addition to lowering blood pressure, respiratory training with a PowerBreathe could possibly help prevent hypertension. Joyner wrote in the Journal of the American Heart Association that he thinks the prospects for using this technique in preventive care are “promising”, especially for people who are not able to do traditional aerobic exercise.

He also pointed out what’s really appealing about this method: it’s so easy. Dr. Joyner explained that training your respiratory muscles with high-resistance IMST “offers a new, unconventional way to generate the benefits of exercise and physical activity.”

The benefits of respiratory training have surprised researchers

Breath training may be new to the world of hypertension treatment, but strength training of the respiratory muscles through deep diaphragmatic breathing has long been used in meditation and mindfulness practices.

RELATED: Strong butts, strong brain? The Surprising Science Behind Muscle Strength and Brain Health

This is why the high strength IMST using a small machine like the PowerBreathe could actually benefit adults of all ages, regardless of health status. But the magnitude of this benefit came as a surprise to the researchers.

“We were surprised at how ubiquitous and effective IMST was at lowering blood pressure,” Craighead said, adding that they “saw robust effects” in study participants of all ages. He noted that these results could indicate that IMST may help prevent heart disease and high blood pressure that tend to occur with age.

If you’re an elite endurance athlete, Craighead also noted that six weeks of IMST could be very helpful in increasing aerobic exercise tolerance.

If you think breathing training can replace exercise, it’s not. It shouldn’t necessarily replace your medication either, warns Craighead. This is definitely a discussion to have with your doctor. Especially when your blood pressure is so high that you are at high risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Instead, says the researcher, “it would be a good complementary intervention for people who are already taking other healthy lifestyle approaches.”

Still, the initial research looks promising, and for just five minutes a day, considering adding the PowerBreathe to your health routine can be worth it.

More Suggest

Comments are closed.