If someone told you that working out for just five minutes a day, without lifting a single weight or jogging a single step, can reduce your heart attack risk, help you think more clearly and boost your sports performance you may think they are joking, but a preliminary study on the Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST) workout, presented this week at the Experimental Biology conference in Orlando, suggests it may just be true.
“IMST is basically strength-training for the muscles you breathe in with,” said Daniel Craighead, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Colorado Boulder Integrative Physiology department who is leading the study. “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.”
Developed in the 1980s as a means to wean critically ill people off ventilators, IMST involves breathing in vigorously through a hand-held device, an inspiratory muscle trainer, which provides resistance. The experience is said to be like sucking through a straw that sucks back.
A 2016 study on sufferers of sleep apnoea found some surprising results, that in addition to aiding them with their weak breathing muscles, just 30 inhalations a day through the device also reduced their systolic blood pressure by 12 millimetres of mercury – an amount which is roughly twice the decrease aerobic exercise can yield and more than many medications had ever delivered.
Now roughly 50 percent of the way through a larger follow-up study, researchers have already found significant drops in blood pressure and improvements in large-artery function among those who performed IMST, with no changes in those who used a sham breathing device that delivered low resistance.
The IMST group is also performing better on certain cognitive and memory tests, and when asked to exercise to exhaustion, they were also able to stay on the treadmill longer and keep their heart rate and oxygen consumption lower during exercise.
Researchers Seals and Craighead stress that their findings are preliminary and curious individuals should ask their doctor before considering IMST, but the results certainly are promising.