IMST Training: A 5 Minute Workout to Lower Blood Pressure



IMST (or High-Resistance Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training) is a time-efficient practice that the American Heart Association has proved to play a significant role in helping seniors fend off cardiovascular and lung diseases. As you probably know, these two diseases are the country’s leading killers.

Since 65% of American adults over age 50 have high blood pressure. Chronic high blood pressure puts individuals at significantly higher risk of stroke or heart attack. High blood pressure has become such a widespread problem. This is combined with the fact that fewer than 40% of Americans meet recommended guidelines for aerobic exercise.

aerobic exercise

Types of aerobic exercise include swimming, cycling, running, walking, rowing, among others. Unfortunately, aerobic exercise- to have a significant effect- usually takes up to 30 minutes to an hour to perform. This leaves many people unable to perform an adequate amount of it, if any.  The difficulty and time intensity of aerobic exercise leaves individuals looking for a way to maintain their health without sacrificing their time and energy. That’s where IMST training comes in.

IMST Training

Due to the difficulty of scheduling exercise, and perhaps health issues that might prevent some of the aerobic exercise mentioned above, alternatives have been studied. According to lead researcher Daniel Craighead, an assistant professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology at Boulder University, “… there are a lot of lifestyle strategies that we know can help people maintain cardiovascular health as they age. But the reality is, they take a lot of time and effort and can be expensive and hard for some people to access.” This fact makes IMST ideal: done in five minutes while you work, play, or even watch TV.  IMST was created in the 1980s to help critically ill respiratory patients strengthen their diaphragm and other breathing muscles. IMST training involves inhaling through a small hand-held device that provides resistance. It feels like sucking vigorously through a straw. The exercise strengthens your breathing muscles and your diaphragm.

Reductions in Blood Pressure

A new study has asserted the utility of IMST in cardiovascular health. In this new study, researchers recruited 36 healthy adults ages 50 to 79 with high systolic blood pressure. Half of the participants practiced IMST for six weeks. The other half in the study performed a placebo protocol. Here the air resistance from the IMST training was much lower (therefore ineffective).


After the six-week period was over, the control group saw their systolic blood pressure lower about nine points on average. This reduction exceeded improvements achieved by walking a half-hour a day. Even better, six weeks after the control group quit performing IMST, the group maintained most systolic blood pressure improvements.

Improvements in Physical and Brain Function

According to Science Daily, “We [the researchers] have identified a novel form of therapy that lowers blood pressure without giving people pharmacological compounds and with much higher adherence than aerobic exercise,” said researcher Doug Seals, a Distinguished Professor of Integrative Physiology at Boulder. “That’s noteworthy.” 

Other results suggest IMST training can also improve some values of physical fitness and brain function. In addition, previous authors from other verified studies have explained that IMST can also help improve performance in sports. For example, a lead researcher on the study personally utilizes IMST to preparing for running marathons. He states that IMST is beneficial for building up endurance and strength of respiratory muscles. This prevents and lowers overall fatigue when practicing. 

What does this mean for you?

We didn’t include a picture of an IMST device here, because there are many different kinds, shapes and sizes. They are sold everywhere from Amazon to your local medical supply business. If you are truly interested in this technology, you should talk to your doctor next time you visit. If you don’t discuss the proper targets and methods, you may be receiving the benefits this study has shown.

From all of this data, one can safely conclude. IMST can improve the capability for aerobic exercise and cardiovascular health. For seniors especially, the benefits are apparent. Moreover, IMST is a quick, easy, low-stress way for seniors who seek to improve their lung function. As stated above, those considering IMST should consult with their doctor or healthcare provider to get the full benefits. But thus far in practice, IMST has proven remarkably safe.

If you’re looking for other senior health habits, Bluebird Health can help. We can also help with ways to maintain your independence. People have found that using different types of Home Health Care helps them stay in their home and reduce hospital visits.

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