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  • Writer's pictureDmitri Konash

Can You Do IMST Breathing Exercise Without Device?

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

What is IMST? Does Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training, or IMST, lowers blood pressure? Does IMST without a device really work?

IMST breathing exercise to lower blood pressure. How to do IMST breathing

Slow breathing exercises have been known for years to help lower high blood pressure [1]. You can try a 4-7-8 breathing to lower blood pressure yourself and observe its positive impact by checking this video.

What is IMST breathing?

A new study from researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder, which was published in the Journal of American Heart Association [2], demonstrates a new simple breathing exercise to lower blood pressure.

All it takes is just 30 deep breaths to lower blood pressure, boost vascular health, and potentially reduce your chances of developing serious cardiovascular disease.

It is a highly convenient and easy-to-perform method that could improve the health of millions of people with high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems. The method is called Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST), a form of training specifically created to exercise the diaphragm and other breathing muscles, using a device that provides resistance when someone inhales through it.

How to do IMST?

Originally developed in the 1980s for those who suffer from respiratory issues, IMST technique requires you to inhale really hard on a device that provides resistance.

According to the researchers, IMST was usually prescribed to people to do for a half-hour a day "at low resistance." In the current research it has been used like a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) — quicker, higher resistance repetitions. Researchers are also working on a breathing app for high blood pressure.

How they tested IMST to make sure that it works

The researchers assembled 36 healthy volunteers between the ages of 50 and 79 with healthy blood pressure numbers. Half the group were randomly assigned to do high-resistance Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training, using devices that make it significantly harder to inhale through, giving the breathing muscles a higher-intensity workout.

The other half of the group also did IMST for 1.5 months, but were effectively given a placebo: a sham treatment that used low-resistance versions of the device.

IMST to Lower Blood Pressure: It is just as good for you as walking

At the end of the study, those who did the more intense form of breathing exercise had a 9-point drop in their systolic blood pressure—"a reduction which generally exceeds that achieved by walking 30 minutes a day five days a week," say the study authors. "That decline is also equal to the effects of some blood pressure-lowering drug regimens." "This improvement in Systolic Blood Pressure is clinically meaningful because it is associated with a 30 percent to 40 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease," the researchers explain.

The other important comment from the research: "even six weeks after they quit doing IMST, they maintained most of that improvement."

This research is particularly relevant for post-menopausal women

The study highlights that previous scientific research has found that postmenopausal women—don't "reap as much benefit from aerobic exercise programs as men do when it comes to vascular endothelial function," which refers to the inner lining of your blood vessels. With Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training, they do. "If aerobic exercise won't improve this key measure of cardiovascular health for postmenopausal women, they need another lifestyle intervention that will," researches noted in the release. "This could be it."

Enjoyable treatment

Researchers found that the technique seems easy to actually commit to: 95% of participants in the study completed everything that was required from their 5-minute exercise sessions.

This is an important finding, given an adult's level of adherence to doing the generally recommended 30 minutes of physical activity per day is estimated to be under 5%. It may be as effective as breathing apps to lower blood pressure.

It also could make you run/cycle faster

The study notes that previously done research connects IMST to sports performance. Building up endurance of respiratory muscles means that you get less fatigued while exercising for extended periods of time. This is mainly a current hypothesis which requires further research. My personal experiments with mild oxygen hunger while exercising certainly confirms this hypothesis.

Does IMST breathing exercise to lower blood pressure without a device really work?

How do you do IMST breathing exercise to lower blood pressure? Researchers used a device called an inspiratory muscle trainer that you put to your mouth, while plugging your nose, that will provide resistance.

You may consider trying IMST breathing exercise without a device. How does it work? Just restrict airflow through your nostrils with your thumbs while inhaling. Keep your mouth closed. Exhale freely. It should be very difficult to inhale.

You should be able to take just about ¼ of the air as compared to your regular deep inhale and you should feel your diaphragm rising.

I have not conducted a formal research on this but every time I was doing this exercise over two weeks it DID result in reducing my Systolic blood pressure by 5-9 points. Check out the video which explains the technique in detail and includes a 5 Min follow along exercise. As of May 2023 this video accumulated over 30K views and this demonstrates high level of interest in this topic,

To help yourself with timing of inhales and exhales you may consider using BreathNow breathing app. It includes different preset breathing patterns, including 4-7-8 breathing to lower blood pressure, and also the opportunity to customise breathing cycles to fit your individual needs. In general breathing apps to lower blood pressure are a great natural tool to address this health condition naturally. Please try IMST breathing by restricting your inhales through your nostrils with your thumbs and let me know how it worked for you.



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