Pros: Easy to use. Compact. Effective,
Resperate is a clever little device that enables people with high blood pressure to lower their bp without having to take medications. People using medication can also benefit from it. It can help to make their medication more effective, or it might even enable people to reduce or eliminate their need for medication. According to the website it won't harm those with normal blood pressure.
How Does It Do It?
Resperate uses breathing exercises to relax the muscles around the patient's blood vessels. The goal is for the user to achieve at least 10 minutes of "therapeutic breathing" per session and at least 40 minutes per week. According to the manufacturer, with prolonged use, the user will experience lower blood pressure even when he/she isn't using the product and should start to see results in 3-4 weeks.
How Do You Use It?
The device comes with a motion sensor that you strap onto your chest or stomach over your clothing. (It takes some practice to find the best location and how tight to set the sensor belt.) You then put on the headphones and press "start." A soothing voice welcomes you and instructs you to "breathe normally." Musical tones play in response to your breathing patterns: a high tone for IN and a lower tone for OUT. A little triangle appears in the display for every breath the device detects.
Once it has established your breathing pattern music starts to play and the voice instructs you to "breathe according to the guiding tones." (You can personalize the music--there are several options.) The tones guide you in slowing your breathing until you have reached 10 breaths or fewer per minute, at which point the voice announces that you are in the "therapeutic breathing zone." The voice recommends that you "close your eyes and continue to follow the breathing tones." The voice stops, but the music continues. The guiding tones will slow your breathing down even further as the session continues.
If you get out of sync or hold your breath, the voice will come on again with a helpful "breathe in, breathe out" and the display shows a little diagram of a person breathing in and out. These reminders can be very helpful as you are getting used to the device.
The display panel changes throughout the session. Initially it shows triangles for breath detection, then breathing diagrams and your initial breathing rate. Once you get into therapeutic breathing it displays your breaths per minute and a little clock icon to show how you are coming with regard to the >10-minute goal. If you push a button it shows a numeric display of your therapeutic breathing minutes.
I think the sessions last about 15-20 minutes (I've never timed it). It's very relaxing so it can be easy to fall asleep accidentally. Obviously falling asleep before the end of the session isn't good, as you won't be synchronizing your breathing to the guidetones.
I think you get the best results by following the instructions: commit the time period to Resperate and close your eyes and focus on breathing in time with the tones. The manual says that it's important to relax and that your breathing be effortless and feel natural. If you struggle to match the guidetones your muscles might stay tense and you won't get the relaxation benefit.
Of course it's best to focus ALL the time, but I have to confess that sometimes I do other things while I have my Resperate session. I think this is a bad idea for new users, but I feel that my body has become conditioned to the machine enough that I can occasionally do it while I do some other passive activities (like reading). There are many activities (like writing or playing videogames) that definitely won't work, as I've either found myself holding my breath and not breathing in time to the tones or the slowed breathing messes up what I'm trying to do. Again, I don't recommend that people multitask. However, if you choose to sometimes do other things while using the device, you should be sure to often do it by itself so you don't pick up bad habits. For me, occasionally deviating makes the difference between my using it regularly or putting it aside and getting out of the habit.
Could You Get the Same Results from Listening to an Audio Recording?
Possibly. However, one of the strengths of the setup is that it is interactive. It monitors and reacts to the user's breathing pattern via the motion sensor. Sometimes this can be annoying. If it isn't getting enough feedback (maybe your clothing is too thick or the sensor isn't in the right spot), it will tell you to "tighten/loosen the sensor belt" and remind you to "breathe in," "don't hold your breath," etc.--which is fine if you are holding your breath. When I'm doing it right but the sensor just isn't detecting it I get irritated.
In general (especially after you learn the best way to position the sensor on your body), the interactivity is a good thing. It enables the device to detect your breathing pattern and work on modifying it. If your initial breathing rate is 17 breaths per minute it starts there and brings you down gradually. If you aren't comfortable with the pace, the manual recommends that you stop trying to synchronize your breathing with the audio tones and to instead breath naturally. The machine recalibrates to your new breathing pattern and then begins to slow your breathing again.
Another advantage over just listening to a recording is that the machine tracks your usage. If you push a button you can see how many therapeutic minutes you had in your most recent session. Push the button again and you can see what you've accumulated in the past week, then the past 60 days. You can also look up how many sessions you have done, initial breathing rates, final breathing rates, breath detection percentages, etc. I might have organized the information differently if I'd designed the system, but it's okay. The therapeutic minutes is what I'm most interested in.
The usage tracking is helpful, as it can keep you honest. You might think that you've done it a lot, but then you check and find out that you had done it fewer times than you thought. The usage tracking makes it hard to share the machine with others. Anyone can strap on the device and have a session, but if you have more than one person using it, then the tracking information becomes useless. (They do make a version for 2 users that costs a little more.) However, if you all have good habits you could probably get away with sharing the device.
It's easy to learn how to use it. The package has a Quick Start guide with tips on how to position to the sensor and how to breathe properly (don't hold your breath, breathe in slowly through the nose, out through the mouth, etc.).
It's portable. The device runs on batteries and is about the size of a personal CD player, but thicker and a little heavier. It's a little too bulky for the average purse, but can easily fit in a backpack or totebag. (I'd probably put it in a soft/padded bag if I were going to carry it around a lot). You could easily take it with you when you travel and I could envision someone using it in a park on their lunch break.
Headphones are removable. They plug into an audio jack. I haven't tried other headphones, but I assume they could probably fit. The website sells a set of noise cancelling headphones that you can use instead. The original device featured foam-padded headphones, the newer ones have earbuds.
The industrial design is a little clumsy. It tries to be clever in that the device has a unique shape. The plastic is molded so that the sides and bottom are convex, enabling the headphones to fit snugly around the unit when not in use. The top of the plastic is shaped into an odd little tube. The intent is that when not in use, the user stuffs the sensor band in the left side of the tube and the headphone wires in the right side. The reality is that this looks cool for packaging purposes, but is a bit cumbersome for daily use. Instead of having to stuff the wires and band in the tube where they get tangled, I'd prefer it if they had just had a compartment with a flipup lid that I could put them into. (This mainly bugs me because I'm a designer, and I see the overly complicated shape as a waste of money.) It looks like the newer models might have a slightly different shape (hard to tell from the photos).
It's expensive. I paid $300 for mine, but I noticed that the website has specials and rebates that can bring the price for some models down to $250. The website offers a 60-day trial period (or it does as of the writing of this review).
Would This Make a Good Gift?
It would be a very generous and fancy gift. However, unless you have a lot of money, I wouldn't surprise someone who has high blood pressure with this. They might just say "thank you" and stick it in a closet and forget about it. On the other hand, if you know someone who is struggling to control their blood pressure or someone whose doctor wants to put them on medication and he/she doesn't want to medicate, then you could see if they might be interested in this. If they would want to try it and are the type that would keep using it, then it would be an awesome gift.
Does It Work?
It works for me. Before I started using it my bp was spiking and would sometimes be 160/100 (sometimes less, sometimes more). I started using it 3-4 times a week and a few months later my bp would often be 130/85 (sometimes even around 116/75). It stayed good for a few months, but then I got out of the habit and stopped using it and my bp went back up. I've just started trying to get back into the habit. Out of curiousity, the other week I took my bp a few minutes before using it and then while I was using it and there was around a 25/15 point difference. The manufacturer's site promises much more modest results. I assume it varies from person to person.
My bp is affected by my emotional state. I'm a generally calm, even-keeled person, but when I'm worried about something my bp can go up. If I mentally try to tell myself to relax, my bp goes up further. Worrying about my bp can make my bp go up. I don't react consciously or obviously to stress, it only seems to affect my bp. This product seems to counteract that. (I know that exercise would also help, but I haven't been doing it.)
I've seen a review on Amazon that cautions that it is worth getting ONLY if you will use it. When you stop using it regularly your bp eventually goes back to what it was. I've also seen reviews from people who say that it didn't work for them. I don't know if it was that they weren't using it right or maybe their blood vessels already were relaxed. So it's best to use the trial period to evaluate if the product will work and if you have the discipline to use it.
Bear in mind that a great way to improve your bp (that doesn't cost any money) is to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 3x a week (more is better), lose weight and reduce intake of salt and fats. If you are already doing this and still struggling with high bp, then you might have to resort to medication--or you could try Resperate first.
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