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Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training


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Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training, using an inspiratory resistance device. 

The fundamental idea behind this is that your breathing muscles need training just like any other. Apparently, with such training there are multiple unexpected benefits including lowering blood pressure, increased exercise performance, benefits for brain health and so on. 



A more detailed presentation from a researcher long involved in this area and giving an overview of research in this area (unfortunately in the form of a lengthy youtube video):


However, as has always been my habit, before I undertake any therapy or procedure, I like to thoroughly research protocol. It is in this context, that I found a paper that seems to imply that a slightly different protocol is actually effective:


In any case, I have decided to plunge into yet another crazy project, and went ahead and purchased this device - which was apparently developed with the help of the foremost reasearcher in this area:


I have just started out on this device, and so I'm not as yet in a position to give a personal report on its effects. YMMV.



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What makes you believe that this device "was developed with the help of the foremost reasearcher in this area"? The product info in the listing is minimal, and the reviews look fake, which doesn't inspire (ha ha — "inspire," get it?) confidence.

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I believe the device Powerbreathe has been developed with Prof Alison McConnell, who has been researching Inspiratory Muscle Training for a long time now - in my OP I linked to the video she did giving an overview of research in that area in the last few decades. Here is her bio mentioning Powerbreathe:


The device I bought and linked to on Amazon is sold by POWERbreathe International Ltd. 

From the website it appears that Prof Alison McConnell is the linchpin as shown here:


I don't know if she supervised the specific model I mentioned, but she does appear connected to the same company.

Again, I'm agnostic as to whether this whole thing is legit or not, but it might be technique dependent as I mentioned when citing the PubMed link. At least that particular study seems to indicate that some benefits occur when used in a specific way - and the researcher don't seem connected to any commercial interests:


So it's not like there is no science behind the intervention. Now, perhaps the specific device I linked to is not legit, but I have no particular reason to think that. 

Anyhow, I've been doing it for a week now, and as yet it's too early to say what the effect will be.

Regardless, I didn't post this to try to convince anyone to go ahead and do this - in fact, I posted this as an example of my tendency to recklessly try any cockamamie procedure and gadget (like the whole body vibration machine). So this is a giant CAVEAT EMPTOR. Not promoting this at all!

I'll give my report after a few weeks - supposedly you should feel some effect after 6 weeks or so. We'll see if I get at least a placebo effect. YMMV.

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  • 4 weeks later...

For the last couple of weeks, I've been experimenting with using simple pursed lip inspiration during the rising portion of 10 or 15 Jefferson Curls performed just before going to bed. This is very relaxing, And I think that it should increase spinal flexibility while strengthening associated small muscles that support the spine. The use of pursed lips to constrain the inspiration helps to slow the down movement -- and I'm guessing that it might provide the same benefits as the advertised gadgets.

[You can look up Jefferson Curls. I want to emphasize that they be done correctly. Always keep the bar close to the body, only moving out at the bottom to get past the feet. The upward movement should reverse the downward movement, keeping the bar close to the body. Start with no weight on the bar or rod -- building up slowly over many months or years to as much as half body weight or even body weight.]

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I had no idea what Jefferson Curls were. I watched a video instruction. I don't have anywhere near the flexibility to do a Jefferson Curl. I'm not a kinesiologist, so I have no idea what the value of JC's is - for all I know, it might be the best thing since sliced bread. So thank you, Todd S, for bringing it to everyone's attention - someone might benefit hugely. But it won't be me - I have no intention or desire to do any of this. As someone who is bumping against my 60's, I have many friends and acquaintances who have back problems, and many of these are athletes and former gym bunnies and so on. A remarkable number of them have back problems - all sorts of back problems. This is quite a common problem:


Just a selection of stats from that link:

"Key Findings and Statistics about Back Pain

Approximately 80% of Americans will experience back problems at some point in their lives

An estimated 10% of the world’s population suffers from lower back pain

The number of Americans experiencing lower back pain is on the rise

Back problems are more common in adult women than men

More than one in three adults say back pain impacts everyday activities, including sleep

29% of Americans believe stress is the cause of their back pain

90% of acute low back pain issues are resolved within six weeks"

Now, despite my age, I've never had back pain in my life. I have never done any special exercises to prevent back pain, "strengthen the core" or any other intervention. My conclusion is that I'm one of those folks for whom back pain is not an issue - therefore, I see no reason to start doing exercises that to me look quite stressful on the back. I realize that the claim will be that JC's are actually the best thing ever for the back, but my simple philosophy is - why fix something that isn't broken. 

Meanwhile, I have a long memory. I remember vividly the various fashions at the gym with this brilliant workout and that brilliant workout all guaranteed to make you live forever. More often than not, years later you'll hear at the gym or doctor's how that fashionable move or workout is actually quite harmful and damaging, and people have hurt themselves really badly. Or you'll get blamed for "doing it wrong" and "bad form". I'd rather bank my good health and not try to monkey around with stuff that I have never felt any need for and my musculoskeletal system has been working fine. And yes, all my life I've heard "just wait - in 10 years you'll be sorry you never worked out like this and you'll be in a world of pain". But it's like fusion - always 10 years in the future, and the only ones hurt are the ones who do these exotic exercises. 

So, for me, just basic calesthenics, some free weights (very moderate), decent aerobics - that's enough. I leave the exotic workouts and super moves for the superhumans amongst us. Not saying there's anything wrong - It's just above my pay grade. 

Meanwhile my experiment with IMST is ongoing. I'm at 4 weeks so far and I can't say I see any results beyond the most immediate - my ability to pull in breath is much greater, due, I suppose to the muscle training - on my device, which is the hardest one amongst all the models from that company - even level 2 was hard when I started out. Now I'm doing level 4 and it's amazing insofar as I'd never be able to do it before I started on this program. Can't wait to see how high I can go. YMMV. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

OK, so I've done the 6 weeks of twice daily sessions with the gizmo I linked to. To the best of my assessment, I have not experienced any physiological effects that I can detect and trace back to the IMST. They claim it lowers BP - but my BP was not high to begin with, and upon measuring it has not changed after IMST; not that I care - I don't need to have my BP be even lower. 

I have not noticed any impact on my exercise capacity - my usual aerobic exercise is 4 jogging sessions per week, each session approx. 50 min long. I have not changed my exercise and not noticed any impact of IMST.

I have been monitoring my FBG levels, and have not noticed any impact either, though I don't suppose IMST should impact fasting blood glucose anyway. 

Those are the things I could measure. I guess I should've really looked into spirometry, but I don't have any such instruments, and couldn't justify a doctor's visit for this. I am left with a subjective feeling, though I am confident it is accurate: my ability to draw breath, the strength of my diaphragm and associated muscles have definitely increased; whereas when I started, I was only able to easily draw 30 consecutive breaths at a level of "2" on my device, I am now able to do so at a level of "5" - this was inconceivable when I started. Now, what concrete overall health impact such stronger muscles might have I of course don't have a faintest clue - possibly nothing. 

All in all, it's part of my daily routine these days. I am at level 5 of possible 10 levels on this device, so my preliminary plan is to continue leisurely escalating the levels as my muscles get stronger, though I must confess, that at least the device I have (which I linked to earlier) is very, very tough... I find it hard to imagine I'll progress much beyond level 7 or so. I'm not even sure it makes sense to go too high up the level of difficulty. I'll play it by ear.

Bottom line: apart from my inspiratory muscles getting stronger, I don't have any insight into any other effects positive or negative this practice might have. For now, my plan is to continue, and perhaps in due time some other effects might reveal themselves (hopefully beneficial!). YMMV.

Edited by TomBAvoider
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This is what the device is supposed to help with:

"Although this device is commonly used by patients with Parkinson’s disease and other disorders, it can also be used by healthy individuals to increase vocal intensity in singers and exhaled air pressure in musicians, and decrease the perception of breathlessness in athletes."

I have been using a similar device I was inspired to get from a different thread here and believe that my feeling of "breathlessness" has improved when I run uphill. It may be just my perception, but this is what counts for me and it's a good enough reason for me to continue doing it :)

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One of the reasons why I may not subjectively notice any impact on my "breathlessness" while doing aerobic exercise (jogging) is because I don't jog at full speed capacity. I believe the data shows that going all out in intensity is not necessary and indeed *might* be suboptimal. This is still somewhat murky. The Copenhagen study showed U shaped benefits with both non-exercising and fast running to be suboptimal. Now, the upper speed/intensity end of that bell curve was underpowered as far as numbers of subjects, so it might not be valid, but it seems it was not the only study that seems to reach the U shape conclusion. By no means do I say that high intensity is harmful or suboptimal, but looking at the data, I am happy to capture the seeming consensus that moderate speed gives you pretty much all the health bennies or the vast majority, and the higher end is only marginally better, if not actively worse for long term outcomes. That means, at worst I give up relatively tiny gains by going only moderate tempo. 

However, at moderate speed I am never winded, so I would not notice if my ISTM conditioning made a difference at the higher end. A few years ago there was a stretch where I experimented with HIIT, but I gave that up - had I persisted, perhaps HIIT would have revealed some difference with ISTM exposure.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

Possibly interesting and/or relevant update: I'm going to give ISTM a break. 

The last couple of days, I experienced some soreness when stretching and breathing deep - subjectively it feels like those very inspiratory muscles are affected. It is possible that I overdid it, as I've ramped up the difficultly level on my device. I figure if it is possible to overdo it with putting on too heavy weights, so it's possible with ISTM.

I will therefore take a break until I no longer feel sore - how long that might take, I have no idea. 

Once I am no longer sore, I will resume my ISTM training but ramp up the difficulty level more slowly, and ultimately stop at a lower level of difficulty than I have achieved. Long term, it might be optimal to have a given level of difficulty that is not excessively high. YMMV.

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