- Developed in the 80s, this exercise can be practiced at home, in front of the television, in five minutes.
- It is more effective than active walking and some aerobic exercise, and its results are similar to those of antihypertensive treatments.
According to Public Health France, high blood pressure (HTA) affects more than a third of French people, half of whom are unaware of their condition and therefore receive no treatment. However, high blood pressure can have serious consequences. High blood pressure on the walls of the arteries can harden them and cause them to age prematurely, exposing them to a significant risk of cardiovascular accidents, in particular myocardial infarction, stroke and kidney failure.
To lower blood pressure, there are a number of treatments that work differently on hypertension. It is also recommended to pay attention to your diet and to practice physical activity.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, a breathing exercise called “inspiratory muscle strength training” can also lower blood pressure by doing it for five minutes a day. According to the study authors, its results were as convincing, if not more so, than aerobic exercise or medication.
“We know there are many lifestyle strategies that can help people maintain cardiovascular health as they age. But the reality is that they take a lot of time and effort, and can be expensive and difficult to achieve. implement for certain people”, says Daniel Craighead, author of the work. The advantage of this exercise, according to him, is to be able to be “made in five minutes, at home, while watching television“.
Significantly lower systolic blood pressure
Developed in the 1980s to help patients with severe respiratory conditions strengthen their diaphragm and other inspiratory muscles, this exercise involves inhaling vigorously through a hand-held device that provides resistance.
Initially, when prescribing this technique for respiratory conditions, doctors recommended a low resistance regimen of 30 minutes a day. Professor Craighead and his colleagues are now investigating whether a faster regimen (30 high-strength inhalations per day, 6 days per week) might also improve cardiovascular, cognitive and physical performance.
To find out, they recruited 36 healthy adults between the ages of 50 and 79 with higher than normal systolic blood pressure (120 mmHg or more). Half of them followed a six-week high-resistance exercise program, while the other half followed a much lower-resistance placebo diet.
The results showed that systolic blood pressure decreased by an average of 9 points in the first group, a greater decrease than that achieved by walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week. This decrease also corresponds to the effect of certain antihypertensive drug treatments. What’s more, the group maintained most of this improvement even after they stopped exercising.
Recommended exercise for postmenopausal women
Another benefit noted in this group: a 45% improvement in vascular endothelial function, the ability of arteries to dilate under stimulation, and a significant increase in nitric oxide levels, which is essential for arterial dilation and the prevention of plaque buildup. Finally, markers of inflammation and oxidative stress decreased significantly after respiratory exercise, which nearly 95% of subjects continued.
Inspiratory muscle strength training may be particularly useful in postmenopausal women, as aerobic exercise programs are not always effective in lowering their blood pressure. “If aerobic exercise doesn’t improve this key measure of cardiovascular health in postmenopausal women, they need another lifestyle intervention that will.” And this exercise “could be the case”concludes Professor Craighead.