This research, ‘Novel 5-minute workout improves blood pressure, may boost your brain’ investigates the effects of just 30 breaths of POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle strength training (IMST). The University of Colorado, Boulder, investigates whether the POWERbreathe K3 IMST device could lower blood pressure and reduce heart attack risk.

What Is IMST?

IMST stands for Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training. It is a form of strength training for the muscles you use to breathe in; your inspiratory muscles. IMST is performed using a hand-held, drug-free POWERbreathe breathing device, as used in the Colorado research. The POWERbreathe IMST device uses resistance to make your inspiratory muscles work harder as you breathe in through it. Because of this, it is affectionately known as the ‘dumbbell for your diaphragm’. The IMST device used in this research is the POWERbreathe K3. 

Which IMST Device Is Best?

The latest research from the pilot study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, finds POWERbreathe K-Series IMST to be a promising home remedy to lower blood pressure. The research also investigates its potential for helping you to think more clearly and for boosting sports performance. Along with the latest findings, is a thoroughly absorbing associated editorial discussing how,

“taking a deep, resisted, breath offers a new and unconventional way to generate the benefits of exercise and physical activity.”

Take a Deep, Resisted, Breath (Michael J. Joyner, MD; Sarah E. Baker, PhD)

IMST – What To Do

One of the key findings of the research is that just 30 breaths of IMST (about five minutes) will lower blood pressure. Crucially, researchers report significant drops in blood pressure and improvements in large-artery function. In fact, their findings show that about 5-minutes of IMST lowers blood pressure as much as aerobic exercise and more than some medications.

The research findings also suggest that just 5-minutes of POWERbreathe IMST may also boost cognitive function. Furthermore, findings show that IMST may also improve fitness and increase sports performance. In fact, these improvements are already proven in previous research studies. However, this study reiterates such findings after performing tests to evaluate:

  • Vascular function (how healthy the blood vessels are).
  • Cerebral vascular function (how healthy the blood vessels in the brain are).
  • Cognitive function.
  • Physical performance (VO2 max testing assesses this).
  • Motor function.

IMST How To Do It

Research subjects are either part of the sham group (using low/no IMST) or the IMST group.

The IMST group performs 30 breaths of inspiratory muscle strength training (taking approximately 5-minutes). They perform 5 sets of 6 breaths with 1‐minute rest between each of the sets. They do this 6 days per week, for 6 weeks.

Subjects in the IMST group train at:

  • 55% PIMAX during week 1
  • 65% PIMAX during week 2
  • 75% PIMAX during weeks 3 to 6

PIMAX stands for maximal inspiratory pressure and is a measure of inspiratory muscle strength, but primarily the diaphragm, as this is the main inspiratory muscle.

Both groups perform their version of IMST over a period of 6 weeks. Researchers feel that by doing this for 5 minutes a day in the comfort of their own home, people will get health benefits they otherwise might not get.

IMST – Does It Work?

Results show that not only did the IMST group lower their blood pressure but they also improved blood vessel health. They were also shown to perform better on certain cognitive and memory tests. Furthermore, they were able to keep their heart rate and oxygen consumption lower during exercise. Consequently, the IMST group demonstrated an increase in exercise tolerance too.

IMST To Lower Blood Pressure

Findings from the pilot study show that in both midlife/older men and postmenopausal women with above‐normal systolic blood pressure (SBP),

“high‐resistance IMST lowers casual systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. Furthermore, reductions in casual systolic blood pressure are largely maintained at least 6 weeks after training is concluded.”
Figure 1. Casual systolic blood pressure (SBP) (A) and diastolic BP (DBP) (B) at baseline and after 6 weeks of inspiratory muscle strength training (IMST) or sham training. Data are mean±SEM. *P<0.05 vs baseline. PMID: 34184544

In addition to the above findings, IMST also lowers 24‐hour systolic blood pressure. This is when compared to sham training. It also improves vascular endothelial function. Vascular endothelium makes up the inner cellular lining of arteries, veins and capillaries.

Other IMST Benefits

“Finally… results provide support for high‐resistance IMST as a promising lifestyle intervention for improving cardiovascular function and possibly decreasing the risk of CVD [cardiovascular disease] and other clinical disorders, such as cognitive dysfunction and chronic kidney disease.”

Findings also show POWERbreathe IMST to be safe, and tolerable, with excellent adherence to the training programme.

IMST And Blood Pressure

With all this evidence, researchers hope that by using POWERbreathe IMST, people may be able to get their blood pressure under control, decrease their risk of chronic conditions and live healthier lives.

IMST With Resistance

The POWERbreathe K3 is the IMST device used in the research. It uses an electronically tapered flow resistive loading valve to challenge your inspiratory muscles. However, in this article, the lead author of the University of Colorado Boulder study, Daniel Craighead, does also suggest a more affordable alternative to this electronic IMST device. But, in order to achieve such results, you will still need to train your inhalation to become much greater than you’ll ever experience during normal daily life or exercise. So it must be challenging.

A good alternative would be the POWERbreathe Plus MR as it provides high resistance to your inspiration. Our POWERbreathe Plus MR has an adjustable load, ranging from 23cmH2O to 186cmH2O. However, the POWERbreathe Plus is a pressure-threshold device. It uses a manually adjustable, calibrated spring-loaded valve that will only open when you generate enough force as you breathe in.

The POWERbreathe K-Series breathing trainer however is an electronically controlled ‘tapered flow resistance’ device that uses a computer-controlled rotary valve to create the resistance to your in-breath. This means that it will automatically match the resistance to your declining muscle strength, as you progress through the breath. You can find out more about the different types of breathing trainers in What is Inspiratory Muscle Training. 

The POWERbreathe Plus IMST device creates a resistance to your in-breath using a precisely calibrated, spring loaded ‘pressure threshold’ valve. This type of training is similar to weightlifting, and you can be sure to challenge your in-breath. And, because the load is adjustable, you are able to start with a ‘lighter’ level of training and work your way up, increasing the load, as your inspiratory muscles become stronger.

IMST Future Research

Assistant Research Professor, Daniel H. Craighead, PhD, is interested in exploring yet further, the long-term effects of POWERbreathe IMST. Of particular interest is whether effects are sustained without IMST, or if a maintenance programme will be required.

In the current study, subjects perform IMST for 6-weeks, after which the POWERbreathe breathing device is removed and training ceased. After a further 6 weeks, their blood pressure was measured again. During this 6-week layoff from IMST, systolic blood pressure was still 7 mmHg lower than at the start of the study.

“In comparison, systolic blood pressure was 9 mmHg lower than baseline immediately after completing 6 weeks of IMST. This suggests that the BP-lowering effects of IMST are ~75% preserved over 6 weeks. In short, it does appear BP will stay lower for a period of time after doing IMST. I do suspect that BP will eventually increase again, but we don’t yet know how long that will take.”

Assistant Research Professor, Daniel H. Craighead, PhD.

It is conceivable that a programme of less frequent IMST (maybe 3 days/week) would be enough to keep blood pressure low, but as this research is still very new, future research will be required to investigate this.

Your Experience Of POWERbreathe IMST To Lower Blood Pressure

We are always delighted to receive your feedback. Below you will see a few thoughts from POWERbreathe users and we invite you to share your experience too. Please submit a review of the POWERbreathe breathing device you are using, or leave a comment below. Thank you.