A glistening six-pack. Triceps like boulders. Gluttonous glutes. Bulging biceps. A stress release. There are a lot of reasons we work out, but improving our memory has never been one of them.
However, a recent study from the University of Colorado at Boulder has found a five-minute routine—one that doesn’t involve touching a dumbbell or jogging a single step—can actually sharpen your brain.
And maybe your new-age yoga teacher really was onto something because it all has to do with ‘working out’ the muscles you use to breathe with.
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Dubbed the IMST (Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training) workout, this is one promising physical regime that could have serious mental benefits. Here’s how it works.
“IMST is basically strength-training for the muscles you breathe in with,” said Daniel Craighead, postdoctorate researcher (and leader of the study), while presenting his team’s preliminary IMST clinical trial results at the Experimental Biology conference in Orlando earlier this week.
“It’s something you can do quickly in your home or office, without having to change your clothes, and… it looks like it is very beneficial to lower blood pressure and possibly boost cognitive and physical performance.”
So if it doesn’t involve running or weight lifting, what does it involve? Well, according to Science Daily, an IMST workout involves, “Breathing in vigorously through a hand-held device—an inspiratory muscle trainer—which provides resistance.”
“Imagine sucking hard through a straw which sucks back.”
During early use, back in the ’80s, lung cancer patients would perform a 30-minute, low-resistance regimen to boost (or maintain) their lung capacity.
However in 2016, University of Arizona researchers found that just 30 inhalations per day (which only takes about 5 minutes) with greater resistance might be enough to make a difference.
This caught today’s Boulder research team’s eye. Especially considering only 5% of adults meet the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day, developing an effective 5-minute alternative could be of great use to the sick and the time poor.
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“Our goal is to develop time-efficient, evidence-based interventions that those busy mid-life adults will actually perform,” said Seals, principal investigator of the ongoing 50-subject study.
Halfway through the test, IMST workout performers have experienced “significant” drops in blood pressure (and improvements in large-artery function) while those who used a sham breathing device that delivered a lower-resistance, experienced no change.
More significantly for those of us that might like to hack our brains (and remember where we left those damn keys), “The IMST group is also performing better on certain cognitive and memory tests,” (Science Daily).
That said, Seals and Craighead reminded the audience that—as their findings are preliminary—you should always ask your doctor before considering IMST.
But as there has been a high compliance rate (fewer than 10 per cent of study participants have dropped out) and no real side-effects, they’re optimistic about IMST’s future, potentially widespread applications.
“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.”