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Ultra-Time-Efficient Exercise Lowers Blood Pressure, Boosts Brain Function (sci-news.com)
149 points by scottie_m on April 10, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 43 comments

Wait, they achieved a 10% reduction in blood pressure in 6 weeks with only a 5 minute daily breathing exercise? That is off the charts great, if true. How have I not heard of this before?

The original study with these claims is here: https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article-pdf/39/6/1179/2667404...

I was going to buy the Powerbreathe on impulse, but there is a lack of authoritative news on IMST devices. People on running and cyclist forums also don’t seem to be fans of IMST. Perhaps that’s because it provides lower marginal benefit for them. Can anyone with a medical background provide their opinion on the linked study?

Same as bhastrika pranayama exercise in yoga. Except you do it without blowing into a device.

Slight tangent: a few years ago it clicked for me how critical breath is in regulating the pH of the blood. The way you breath directly moderates the balance of oxygen vs. carbon dioxide in your blood, which on a basic level effects its pH.

When you hear people talk about drinking alkaline water or eating alkalizing foods... the most direct thing you can do to effect your blood's pH is by learning different ways of breathing and how they make you feel.

If you're brave and would like to experience just how powerful your breath is for yourself, try the technique "bioenergetic breathing": https://www.painscience.com/articles/breathing.php

Have you ever measured the pH of your blood, both before and after eating certain foods or performing certain exercises?

Animal blood is a buffer system, with normal pH of 7.35 to 7.45 . It takes a lot to push it out of balance. You have the buffer [H+](aq) + [HCO3-](aq) <-> H2CO3(aq) <-> CO2(g) + H2O(l). Lungs remove excess CO2(g), and kidneys remove excess [HCO3-](aq). You also have the buffer [H+](aq) + [H2PO4-](aq) <-> H3PO4(aq), and [H+](aq) + hemoglobin(aq) <-> O2(aq) + hemoglobin(aq). As muscles produce acid, hemoglobin binds the proton and releases oxygen. A healthy body does not need to do anything at all to consciously regulate its pH; actions that can significantly change blood pH can cause alkalosis or acidosis, which are indicative of serious metabolic problems.

If you haven't had a blood test that showed blood pH out of the range 7.35 to 7.45 , you never need to worry about your blood pH or blood gases, ever--unless you're a SCUBA diver or astronaut, or someone else that routinely breathes a different mix of gases from normal atmosphere.





Try it yourself if you don't believe me... I dare you!

Lay down in a comfortable place. Begin breathing deeply and comfortably but quickly, leaving no pauses at the top or bottom of your breaths. Keep a steady rhythm of 1-2 breaths/second. Keep doing this for up to 5 minutes... or as long as you can stand to. Well within 2 minutes your lips and hand muscles will cramp up.

That's tetany, and it's a very clear sign of respiratory alkalosis. No pH meter necessary!


You are free to keep going if you can handle the intense and unusual sensations. It will get more intense. Take it as far as you'd like. At some point you may begin to experience some psychological discomfort, so I'd err on the side of caution if you are easily spooked by unfamiliar states of mind.

I've experienced quite severe tetany from controlled and deliberate hyperventilation ("bioenergetic breathing"/"round breathing"/"breath of fire"). When I did this exercise, I was involuntarily convulsing as my lips and hands became uncontrollably tensed and misshapen. It's surprisingly easy to do and is an extremely powerful experience.

After doing this exercise I felt a profound sense of well-being and relaxation as I laid and stretched in the sun.


Let me state more clearly my point: eating or drinking a certain way in order to moderate your blood pH is useless if you're not paying attention to your breathing habits.

Breathing is an actual way to quickly alter your blood pH.

By the way, on the flip side, some people might experience blood acidosis because of hypoventilation:


> Hypoventilation in the absence of alkalosis to inhibit ventilatory drive is a primary respiratory problem. This can result from CNS depression caused by trauma or by some drugs that inhibit respiratory drive such as barbiturates. Hypoventilation increases PCO2 and leads to acidosis. There can be no respiratory compensation for a primary respiratory problem.

You don't need to be an astronaut or scuba diver to have CNS depression/trauma. I can attest to that personally.

You are describing woo. Produce objective repeatable measurements, or it didn't happen. The burden is upon the claimant to make a falsifiable assertion and then support it with evidence.

Please explain why anyone should deliberately choose to induce alkalosis by breathing exercises. What purpose does that serve? Have the claims ever been examined objectively? Both alkalosis and acidosis are potentially dangerous conditions, and should not be toyed with because of woo.

Okay hold on... Did you take the time to actually read any of the links I posted? Or any of what I wrote? Did you read the quote I shared from the last link? It gave a compelling reason for doing alkalizing breath exercises... Chronically or acutely disrupted respiration from CNS depression related to trauma or anything. This is quite a common kind of situation and the article is saying "people can have acidosis because they aren't breathing well."

In that case, according to science and folks traditions alike it's necessary for them to retrain their habits of breath to be more oxygenizing.

And there's a spectrum here. You can do alkalizing breath exercises without inducing tetany. I mentioned the tetany exercise because you were asking me to hook up a pH meter to my bloodstream to "objectively prove" that voluntarily changing respiration can lead to significant pH shifts in the blood. I've shared links to non-controversial scientific articles and book exerpts, including peer reviewed ones, corroborating this.

Involuntary, chronic shallow breathing or hyperventilation are respectively dangerous because they can cause acidosis or alkalosis that an individual is unable to recover from without some intervention.

Just because there also happen to be numerous folk traditions around this, notably pranayama, doesn't nullify the objective, scientific basis for what I'm talking about!

If you'd genuinely like to understand my perspective from a scientific point of view, check out this peer reviewer article: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17432979.2011.57...

That article is on psychotherapy.

I am not disputing that breathing exercises can make one feel better. I am disputing that the sense of wellness is causally linked to any changes in blood pH.

It is perfectly acceptable to claim that breathing exercises are useful for mental health. You are making additional claims that are not supported, regarding health benefits for people that do not have a diagnosis that requires therapy.

The folk remedies do not automatically invalidate the claims. They do surround the relevant questions with a cloud of woo, which makes objective study more difficult. This is especially relevant when scammers adopt pseudoscientific terminology that mimics genuine science for the purpose of selling their products and services. It becomes difficult to sort the fact from the fiction, because the fictions are explicitly designed to look like related facts.

> This paper provides an overview of the physiology of breathing, a review of the literature on breathwork.

I don't see any indication that you read the paper or the abstract. The article isn't "about psychotherapy", it's about bodywork, and draws from scientific literature on physical aspects of respiration. This article gives a pretty clear picture picture of how breath, pH and wellness are intertwined.


You wrote:

> It is perfectly acceptable to claim that breathing exercises are useful for mental health. You are making additional claims that are not supported, regarding health benefits for people that do not have a diagnosis that requires therapy.

From the article:

> Unfortunately, very little research has been done on the psychological effects of acidosis and alkalosis, though it may be possible to make some inferences via research done on the stress response.

Also from the article:

> To put breath physiology into more gaseous detail, if body activity stays the same, an increase in breathing will increase the rate of CO2 diffusing from the blood into the lungs. This can cause the CO2 concentration in the blood to fall, which will cause the acid level of the blood to drop, and its pH will become alkalotic (too alkaline). Alkalosis often leads to muscle spasm, tetany, anxiety, and panic (Fried, 1987; Lowry, 1967; Nakamura, 1981; Rhinewine & Williams, 2007), with Nakamura noting that when the pH exceeds 7.60, hyperventilation tetany takes place. If breathing is depressed, CO2 concentrations in the blood will rise, causing the acid level to rise, and the pH of the blood will become more acidic. As was noted before, chronic alkalosis or acidosis can both cause long-term harm to physical well-being. Farhi (1996) states that relaxed breathing enhances the immune system, assists in the absorption of nutrients and proteins, supports bone growth, and boosts overall cellular health in the body. In addition, it is believed that balanced breathing sustains circulation, maintains mental clarity, strengthens organ function, and provides pain relief (Boerstler & Kornfeld, 1995). Balanced breathing in this sense is defined as a relationship between the inhale and the exhale such that an appropriate blood pH is maintained. Farhi (1996) also emphasises that good breathing increases physical energy and mental concentration via the oxygenation of all our cells, and asserts that using specific breathing practices in conscious ways has been shown to ease migraines, lessen chronic pain, assuage panic attacks, and lower symptoms of asthma. Perri and Halford (2004) found that conscious breathing reduces chronic pain.

Yeah... not going to pay $43 to read that. The journal is "Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy". It's a psychotherapy article, marked as "theoretical article", and is a meta-study survey of other published articles. My education included minors in chemistry and cognitive science. I recognize and admit I have a prejudicial bias against "soft" science, so you're probably not going to change my mind without some actual biochemistry experimentation. You might sway someone with different standards, though. Again, objective, repeatable measurements, or the effect does not exist.

It would be easy enough to do. First, extract some blood plasma from a volunteer using normal donation protocols. Divide it into three portions. Remove the dissolved CO2 from one. Saturate the CO2 in another. Do nothing to the last. Inject the fractions, in random order, into the subject intravenously, and observe the results after each one. My hypothesis is that the acidic sample will prompt an increase in respiratory rate, the basic sample will prompt a decrease, and the placebo sample will do nothing.

Did you have your blood pH tested before deciding to change your blood pH through conscious alteration of your breathing?

No? Then stop doing it. Actually test your blood pH before continuing. If it is normal, do not resume. If it is low, condition yourself to breathe faster or more deeply. If it is high, condition yourself to breathe slower or more shallowly. Re-test to titrate your results. And please stop advising strangers on the internet to use breath therapy to change their blood pH. A randomly chosen individual is highly unlikely to have chronic acidosis or chronic alkalosis, and your advice may lead an otherwise healthy individual to undertake practices that could be detrimental to their long-term health.

I understand you are excited about learning that you have the power to change the chemical environment in your blood just by overriding natural unconscious pulmonary responses with your brain. That does not mean it is safe, or effective for any particular purpose. In normal, healthy individuals, appropriate blood pH is automatic, unconscious, and absolutely effortless. So step back and ask yourself from the perspective of a disinterested observer why you are so concerned with your blood pH.

Along with temperature, pH is one of the highest-impact variables on aqueous biochemical reactions. Animals are full of amphoteric molecules, that can behave differently in different pH ranges. And some of them participate in vital chemical reactions and cycles. As previously mentioned, animals have several different chemical buffer systems to regulate pH, and both respiratory rate and the sense of respiratory distress are governed by concentration of CO2 in the blood. Free divers hyperventilate to clear excess CO2, before holding their breath for an extended period, and this puts them at risk of hypoxia, because they won't feel the compulsion to breathe from excess CO2 in the blood until much later than they normally would. Forcing yourself to breathe abnormally will have noticeable and measurable physiological effects. Not all of them are necessarily good.

Ever seen the 70s movie The Andromeda Strain?

Spoiler alert ;-p

(I hadn't seen it but realize now it was mentioned in this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Respiratory_alkalosis )

Just immersing your face in cold water apparently has a similar effect on blood pressure -- with no additional expense.


Maybe for a short term period of time, but probably not long-lasting enough to have a consequential health benefit, unlike exercise. Exercise, when done regularly, permanently lowers blood pressure.

Looks similar to Kapalabhati and Bhastrika pranayama breathing exercises.



Just looked into this, and it is fairly similar to what I will do sometimes to relax before falling asleep.

Basically deep but not too deep breaths in and out and usually around the fifth breath there is a noticeable decrease in tension and I am suddenly very relaxed and able to fall asleep.

Didn't read very deeply into the two, so may be completely off the mark. But breathing exercises definitely do help reduce stress and tension, so I can see why they would help with blood pressure.

It's great combined with cold showers. Check out Wim Hof method if you need examples (although breathing and cold training are as old as the hills.)

Site is down for me, mirror: https://outline.com/mYww6T

It’s still responsive for me, weird. Thanks for offering an alternative to people who need it though!

How does the device work and what does it do?


On the Powerbreathe website it says

>The POWERbreathe K-Series uses Electronic Variable Threshold Resistance Training to overcome this. This type of training offers a tapered loading resistance to match the contraction curve of your own breathing muscles throughout your entire breath.

Is it restricting the flow of air so you have to breathe harder?

It's an "inspiratory muscle trainer". That is, it increases resistance breathing in.

I can do the same with my lips (or a finger) and make funny noises too :)

Two things come to mind:

The first is that I wonder if this has the opposite effect on people who use CPAPs? About a third of their life their diaphragm isn't needing to exert nearly as much force for them to inhale.

The second is that I wonder if this has any effect on people who vape, especially with small sub-ohm units. Many of them have very limited airflow, which seems like it would emulate the effect of this device to some degree.

>people who use CPAPs? About a third of their life their diaphragm isn't needing to exert nearly as much force for them to inhale.

Most recent advancements in CPAP is to provide as little pressure as possible while still keeping the airway open. Higher air pressure increases discomfort and undermines compliance, and the effect is huge. The pressure never goes up high enough to force the diaphragm to move, sooner the mask will fly off the face.

Auto CPAPs are fantastic, they're still under-prescribed by doctors however.

Good news is that a lot of patients have figured out you can trivially re-configure a fixed pressure unit to be an Auto CPAP because most CPAPs sold today are both.

The great thing about Auto CPAPs is that they use predictive algorithms to figure out when an Apnoea–Hypopnoea will likely occur, ramp pressure up preemptively, and can sometimes avoid the event entirely.

A recent software update to Respironics/Philips Auto CPAP in particular had people seeing a lower AHI because the machine was making better predictions and stopping events in their tracks. This directly results in better sleep/better compliance.

PS - Obviously don't take medical advice from Hacker News. If you have a high air pressure/a high AHI you may not be suitable for Auto CPAP therapy and could cause harm, talk to your doctor. There's a lot of information/literature out there if you wish to learn more. Right now Auto CPAPs are under-prescribed, but that doesn't mean everyone is a suitable candidate.

A friend of mine in med school said they did their autopsy on someone with sleep apnea and the man's diaphragm was unusually thick. I myself have sleep apnea and my allergist was surprised how hard I could blow into her breath measuring thing. Not off the charts but high enough that she noticed.

I guess there are other reasons to be on CPAP, but that's my personal datapoint.

(Imagine how strong your diaphragm would be if you spent a third of your life breathing through a crushed straw.)

The device shown in the video is the Powerbreathe K3 breathing trainer. On Amazon US, the Powerbreathe K4 is selling for $499. However, there are lots of more affordable inspiratory muscle training devices from other manufacturers.

Has anyone used these devices and what improvements in health, if any, did you notice?

Seems like you could also get tuneable levels of inspiratory resistance with a U-shaped bit of tubing. Put water in the bottom of the U, no more than halfway up, and breathe in through one leg of the U.

Your inhalation pulls up the water column until air bubbles can cross the bottom of the U.

Just don't breathe in the water! That sounds.... dangerous.

This may be naive, but isn't this the moral equivalent of breathing through a straw?

Moral? I dunno. But effectively, yes.

I wonder if you could get the same benefits by just blowing up a balloon.

Interestingly enough I bought this what I thought was a scam/sham/illegitimately represented product from Bas Rutten (the O2 Trainer) awhile ago on a lark. It seems like it actually has some merit (at least the idea, most likely not the product).

Interesting, I've had asthma all of my life, with varying levels of control, I wonder what the knock on effects of that have been, and I wonder if this would be worth giving a shot

Are there any consumer grade devices that are safe/recommended?

I'm giving this basic one a shot for $27: https://www.healthproductsforyou.com/p-respironics-threshold...

I just bought one called Powerbreathe on eBay, they seem to have mechanical and electronic ones. Probably can’t hurt, I’ll give it a go. Drop me a line if you have questions, I should have the device in hand in a couple weeks.

Search for "power breathe" on Amazon. Found them by typing in IMST.

What's a good IMST routine? I take it one could do it well enough by just slightly holding your nostrils together and breathing hard?

That might foul up your Eustachian tubes or sinuses: probably better to do it through your mouth, holding your lips together.

Reminds me of fighters training for MMA wearing gas masks to increase their VO2 Max.

As a childhood asthmatic, apparently I got on this training regime early.

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