Workout for the lungs

A quick breathing technique promises to lower blood pressure, control diabetes, and improve several other health parameters

Published: 07th November 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th November 2021 11:38 AM   |  A+A-


For representational purposes

Express News Service

Rohan Kapoor had tried everything under the sun to get his weight under check. Nothing helped. Every time he walked on the treadmill or took a flight of stairs, he would get breathless. Squats made his joints hurt and weight training flared his spondylitis. Kapoor piled the kilos and ill-health. At 38, he had high blood pressure and diabetes. But what scared him was periods of forgetfulness.

It started with difficulty concentrating at work but soon led to confusion. Just then he was introduced to a game-changer. It was the Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST), a form of resistance training, which strengthens the muscles that you use to breathe. Just by following the technique for 22 days, Kapoor’s blood pressure plummeted, diabetes came to the borderline, and he could retain and recall more.

All you need is five minutes, six days a week to see a difference, according to a new study published in the Journal of American Heart Association, conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder. The research was conducted on 36 adults aged between 50 and 79, all of who had high blood pressure. Half of the people followed IMST for the stipulated period and the other half were on a low-resistance placebo programme.

After six weeks, it was found that adults who were on the IMST programme saw a drop in systolic blood pressure by 9mmHg, which otherwise could have been brought down by exercising for five days a week for 30 minutes, along with regular medications. The reduction points were almost the same as caused by medication. They also exceeded the effects of a 30-minute walk done five days a week. On the other hand, there was no change found in those who were on a low-resistance placebo programme.

“When the muscles used for breathing strengthen, you can work out for longer and more efficiently. The best part is that you save time. This (IMST) is ideal for people like Kapoor who cannot get themselves up to exercise as it is easy to execute and still maintains cardiovascular health at any age. You can perform this at home or office. Neither do you need a proper setup nor a change of clothes,” says Dr Neetu Jain, Senior Consultant, Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, PSRI Hospital, New Delhi.

 For Gaurav Bawa, a war reporter with a leading publication in Delhi, taking out 30 minutes for a workout is unimaginable. He is always on the move. IMST is a saving grace. “I am continuously travelling through different time zones with little rest and sometimes no food. While I love my job, it has come with a trade-off—deteriorating health. For five months, cold, cough and fever had become a usual occurrence. My immunity was at an all-time low, and with no time to exercise, I tried the IMST breathing technique upon a family physician’s recommendation,” he says.

“I have been doing it for a month now and my mood is better and I have fewer bouts of fever and body ache.” Experts believe this therapy to be effective for the critically ill and those paralysed. IMST is highly recommended for those with asthma, bronchitis, COPD, and emphysema patients, who experience trouble breathing due to narrow airways and swelling in their lungs. It improves diaphragm muscle strength for athletes. Cyclists and runners are using it quite often now. “Results show that the dependency on medicine can be done away with if IMST is followed regularly,” says Palak Dengla, Chief Physiotherapist, Aster RV Hospital, Bengaluru.

The therapy is not recommended for those with poor cognition, and those who suffer from dyspnoeic or severe breathlessness. Dr Hirenappa Udnur, Consultant Pulmonologist at Columbia Asia Hospital Hebbal, Bengaluru, however, has his doubts. “IMST has its benefits but it is difficult to believe that it can do away with the need to exercise or take medication. Having said that, I know that it does increase exercise capacity, adding to overall well-being,” he says. 

Benefits of IMST

✥ Easy to use
✥ Improves endothelial functions by increasing Nitric oxide levels, thereby reducing the risk of a stroke or a heart attack
✥ Markers of inflammatory and oxidative stress reduce, thus the frequency of falling sick tapers
✥ Advantages are long-lasting; adherence rate is higher than aerobic exercise
✥ Helpful in maintaining cardiovascular health
✥ Assists those who have had a stroke or are at risk of one
✥ Lowers blood pressure, cholesterol
✥ Can help those with Parkinson’s disease, neuromuscular diseases
✥ Enhances sports performance

How it’s done

This diaphragmatic exercise is performed using a handheld device that provides resistance when you inhale through it. Initially, you are advised low-resistance inhalation but gradually the resistance is built for a more rigorous breathing pattern. 


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