Did you know that the diaphragm (not the lungs) is actually responsible for controlling our breath? The lungs hold the air, but the diaphragm muscle contracts and relaxes to pull and push air with each breath. Like all other muscles, the diaphragm can slowly atrophy and become weaker over time. And a weakened diaphragm means weakened breathing, and a myriad of health issues that come from it.
But what if you could add a daily dose of muscle training for the diaphragm and other breathing muscles? New research is suggesting that such exercise can help promote heart health and reduces high blood pressure.
Daniel Craighead at the University of Colorado Boulder and his team of researchers conducted a study on a wide range of patients to test their outcomes with a resistance training device for your breath. This device is called PowerBreathe, but many like it are on the market today.
“We found that doing 30 breaths per day for six weeks lowers systolic blood pressure by nine mm of mercury,” Craighead says. That reduction could also come from aerobic exercise like walking, running, or cycling, which is promising for people unable to perform these activities to improve their heart health. “That’s the type of reduction you see with a blood pressure drug,” says Michael Joyner, a physician at the Mayo Clinic studying how the nervous system regulates blood pressure.
Nine “points” may not seem like much; but it actually represents a near 35% decrease in the risk of a stroke, and a 25% decrease in the risk of developing heart disease. So maybe this resistance training for your diaphragm is actually a big deal.
How to loosen a tight diaphragm muscle
The main reason this type of breath training is so beneficial is that deep diaphragmatic breathing is the focus. You can perform the same training while focusing on breathing through your diaphragm without the resistance of the device. The benefit of the PowerBreathe and other devices like it is the speed at which you can get a result. Instead of training breath work multiple times per day, or for longer periods of time, you can get the same benefit in a shorter amount of time.
Devices like PowerBreathe may serve an additional purpose other than supporting those with high blood pressure. Athletes can benefit from breath training similar to how athletes can benefit from high altitude training to improve their cardiovascular endurance.
Resistance training for the breath is not meant to replace medication for patients with a high risk of heart issues, or exercise for people who are able to exercise. However, it can be a therapeutic addition to their interventions and can ultimately improve their condition.
This improvement can potentially decrease the need for medication (or multiple medications) in the future, which ultimately creates a healthier population. Whether you try a device like PowerBreathe or not, focusing on deep diaphragmatic breathing should definitely be an addition to your daily routine. You can include it in your meditation practice, or add it on at the end of your workout to help support recovery, stress management, and cardiovascular health.