5-minute Workout Improves Blood Pressure, May Boost Brain Function

Working out for just five minutes a day using Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST) may reduce the risk of heart attack, while enhancing cognitive function and sports performance, according researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder, who presented their preliminary findings this week at the Experimental Biology conference in Orlando. 

“IMST is basically strength-training for the muscles you breathe in with,” said lead author Daniel Craighead, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Colorado Boulder Integrative Physiology department, in a press release. “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.” 

IMST was developed in the 1980s as means to wean critically ill patients off ventilators. The workout comprises intensely breathing in through a hand-held device – an inspiratory – which provides resistance. The workout can be likened to vigorously sucking through a straw that sucks back. Early use of IMST began in patients with lung diseases, who performed a 30-minute, low resistance daily workout regimen to enhance their lung capacity. 

Promising Preliminary Results 

The researchers of this study have conducted about half their tests, with results showing that those who performed IMST experienced significant reductions in blood pressure and large-artery function with no changes in patients who used a sham breathing device that delivered low-resistance. Moreover, the IMST group performed better on certain cognitive and memory tests. 

Furthermore, when instructed to exercise to exhaustion, participants in the IMST group exhibited the capacity to remain on the treadmill longer while maintaining a low heart rate and oxygen consumption levels during the workout. 

“Our goal is to develop time-efficient, evidence-based interventions that those busy mid-life adults will actually perform,” said Professor Doug Seals, principal investigator who was recently awarded a $450,000 National Institute of Aging grant to fund the clinical trial of IMST involving about 50 subjects. 

While some cyclists and runners have already started using commercially-available inspiratory muscle trainers to gain a competitive edge, Seals and Craighead emphasize that their findings are preliminary, and patients should consult with their physicians before starting IMST. 

However, given the positive results with no reported side effects, the researchers are optimistic. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is the number one cause of death in America,” said Craighead. “Having another option in the toolbox to help prevent it would be a real victory.”