Breathe properly to get fit and happy


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Text comes from: Erfolgsfaktor Sauerstoff: Wissenschaftlich belegte Atemtechniken, um die Gesundheit zu verbessern und die sportliche Leistung zu steigern (2018) & Angst, Stress und Panik wegatmen: Die Sauerstoffversorgung des Gehirns verbessern und Ängste, Depressionen und Panikattacken für immer loswerden (2019) from Patrick McKeown, published by Münchener Verlagsgruppe (MVG), Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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Studies show that people who live in higher altitudes tend to live longer. It is not known which mechanisms are involved - the effect could be due to several different factors.

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Patrick McKeown Best of HR – Berufebilder.de®Patrick McKeown is a naturopath & director of Buteyko Clinic International.

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Why do people in higher altitudes live longer?

The closest explanation is the decreasing oxygen partial pressure with increasing altitude. Research shows very clearly that restricting calorie intake extends lifespan. However, the effects of oxygen are usually not taken into account. Just as superfluous calories can damage your metabolism, too much oxygen can also cause free radicals that damage your tissues.

These highly reactive and destructive molecules cause damage to the lipids in your cell membranes, to the body's proteins and DNA. Free radicals are created during the normal breakdown of oxygen in the context of metabolic processes. We all produce a certain amount of free radicals simply by breathing. Doing breathing exercises aimed at maintaining a healthy tidal volume can therefore be an effective strategy to keep the oxygen in your body at an optimal level. This in turn minimizes the damage caused by free radicals.

Altitude training as a tactic

In addition, altitude training is a tactic that many top and endurance athletes use to gain a competitive edge. Because one way to tap additional resources in the body is to specifically reduce the oxygen supply for a short time. This improves both the blood's ability to transport oxygen and the maximum oxygen capacity (VO2 max) - the amount of oxygen that an athlete's body can use per minute. Now most of us don't live very high above the seaspiegelso that they cannot easily use this effect.

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However, there are some simple strategies you can use to take advantage of high altitude living and the associated reduced oxygen uptake: so keep your mouth shut as you breathe. Admittedly, it took me several weeks to master the transition to breathing through my nose; but when I did it, breathing became far more efficient.

Change your lifestyle

I am a big advocate of avoiding expensive, high-risk medication and surgery with simple lifestyle changes. The strategies in success I think everyone should include oxygen in their choices of health promoting activities. I simply cannot see any disadvantages - the program only has advantages. I personally use it and can only warmly recommend that you integrate it into your life. Worth it!

We can live without food for weeks and without water for days, but can only do without air for a few minutes. While we spend a lot of time and attention on what we eat and drink, we pay almost no attention to the air we breathe. It is well known that both quality and quantity play an important role in daily food and fluid intake.

Oxygen over or under supply as a problem

An over or under supply leads to problems. We also realize that we need good air. But what about the crowd? What level of breathing air do we need for optimal health? Wouldn't it be logical to assume that the air, which is even more important to human survival than food or water, also has some very basic requirements? The amount of air inhaled can change everything you thought you knew about your body, your health, and your performance. This applies regardless of whether you are someone who has difficulty leaving the sofa for training, whether you are a Sunday athlete who occasionally runs ten kilometers or a professional athlete looking for the decisive competitive advantage.

You may be wondering what I mean by "crowd" in this context. After all, air is not something that you pull in briefly at the kitchen table in the late evening - or during a feast on the weekend. But what if this was exactly the case in some ways? What if healthy breathing habits were as important to achieving maximum fitness as healthy eating habits - or even more important?

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Correct breathing improves your performance

You should get to know the basic connections between oxygen and important physical processes. Your performance is improved by optimizing the oxygenation of your muscles, organs and tissues. Such an increased oxygen saturation is not only healthier, but also enables a higher exercise intensity and makes you breathless less quickly. In short: you will be healthier, fitter and more productive.

When you take part in competitions, you will find that you enjoy both training and the competition itself more than ever. The reason: you will be able to do more with less. Our general fitness and athletic performance is usually limited by the lungs - not by the legs, arms or mind. Everyone who moves regularly knows that feeling short of breath affects exercise intensity far more than any muscle fatigue. The basis for fun in sports and an increase in physical activity is therefore breathing as efficiently as possible.

Chronic hyperventilation

Learning how to breathe properly is fundamental - scientific studies prove this, as does the experience of thousands of people I have worked with.

The problem is that the right breathing, which should have been in our cradle, has become a major challenge in our modern society. We assume that the body always knows reflexively how much air it needs at the moment. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Over the centuries we have changed our environment so dramatically that many of us have forgotten the innate ability to breathe. The natural breathing process has gotten out of hand due to chronic stress, predominantly sedentary activities, unhealthy eating, overheated houses and lack of fitness. All of these factors contribute to poor breathing habits. And bad breathing habits in turn result in sluggishness, weight gain, sleep disorders, breathing difficulties and cardiovascular diseases. Our ancestors naturally fed and worked hard.

Less competition, better breathing

They lived in an environment that was far less competitive than ours - and that was conducive to an efficient breathing pattern. Compare this to our modern everyday life, in which we sit for hours at a desk in front of the computer and make calls, quickly swallow down any fast food at noon and continuously try to cope with an apparently endless series of tasks and financial obligations. These modern living conditions gradually increase the amount of air we breathe. More oxygen in the lungs - that may sound positive at first. In reality, however, it is rather a light breath that shows good health and fitness.

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Imagine two people traveling to the Summer Olympics: an overweight tourist and a competitor. What do you think, who wheezes and gasps more when he picks up his luggage and carries it up the stairs? Certainly not the athlete. The biggest and rarely identified obstacle on the way to health and fitness is chronic hyperventilation, i.e. over-breathing.

Exhale the checklist

We can breathe in two to three times as much air as we need without even realizing it. Answer the following questions to find out if you are over breathing:

  • Do you sometimes breathe through your mouth during your daily activities?
  • Are you breathing through your mouth in deep sleep? (If you are not sure: wake up with a dry mouth in the morning?)
  • Do you snore or hold your breath while you sleep?
  • Can you visibly perceive your breathing at rest? To find out, turn your attention to your breathing right now: take a minute and watch the movements of your chest or abdomen during each breath. The more movement you see, the deeper you breathe.
  • When you watch your breathing, do you notice more movement in the chest or abdomen?
  • Do you sigh regularly throughout the day? (An occasional sigh is not a problem. Regular sighing, however, leads to chronic over-breathing.)
  • Do you sometimes hear your breath at rest?
  • Do you suffer from symptoms caused by habitual overbreathing, such as a stuffy nose, narrowed airways, fatigue, dizziness or drowsiness?

If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, this indicates a tendency to over-breathe. The features described are typical when we breathe in more air than we need.

Over breathing - a bad habit

Just as with the daily supply of water and food, there is also an optimum in breathing air. Breathing over can be as bad for your health as overeating. The unconscious habit of over-breathing has reached epidemic proportions in all parts of the industrialized world. This is extremely harmful to our health. Chronic hyperventilation leads to illness, poor fitness and reduced performance. It promotes numerous ailments, including anxiety, asthma, fatigue, insomnia, heart problems, and even obesity.

It may seem strange that a spectrum of such diverse problems is caused or exacerbated by over breathing. But the breath of life literally affects every aspect of our health. My goal is to put you in a state where you can live and breathe again as nature intended. But to cure suffering, you first have to understand it.

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Understand the problem with breathing

As you breathe in everyday life, you breathe when you exercise. If you breathe too much every day, every hour and every minute, you will struggle with breathlessness during training. Because if our breathing is already miserable at rest, it would be nonsensical to expect it to correct itself during physical exertion. The seemingly harmless tendency to breathe visibly through the mouth during the day or at night and while at rest makes you short of breath during training and limits your ability to improve your performance.

These bad breathing habits can make the difference between a healthy, dynamic life and a sickly, weak one. Exhaling leads to narrowing of the airways. This limits the body's ability to charge itself with oxygen, and narrowing of the blood vessels leads to reduced blood flow to the heart and other organs as well as the muscles. These systemic effects affect your health, whether you are a professional athlete or your main exercise is to climb the stairs in your house. Exhaling can stagnate or even shorten sports careers. Excessive breathing takes its toll: the lungs let their owner down, no matter how strong the rest of the body is. As most athletes know, our lungs fail long before our arms and legs.

How does oxygen work in the body?

All we need is the invisible but crucial foundation of human life: oxygen. The paradox is that the amount of oxygen that your muscles, organs and tissues can use is not entirely dependent on the amount of oxygen in the blood. The oxygen saturation of our red blood cells is between ninety-five and ninety-nine percent, which is absolutely sufficient for strenuous training. (Some of my clients with serious lung disease have lower levels of oxygen saturation, but that's very rare.)

The amount of carbon dioxide in your blood determines how much oxygen your body can really use. You may still remember from your biology class that we breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide (CO2). It is widely believed that carbon dioxide is just a waste, an exhaust gas that we get rid of through our lungs, but it is not true. Carbon dioxide is the key to releasing oxygen from red blood cells; without this key, the body could not convert oxygen. The underlying relationships are referred to as the drilling effect.

The Bohr effect

If you take this physiological principle into account, you can prevent over-breathing. The Bohr effect, discovered over a hundred years ago, explains how the release of oxygen to active muscles and organs works. What most people don't know: The amount of carbon dioxide in our blood cells determines how much oxygen the body can use. The point is: how we breathe determines the amount of carbon dioxide in our blood.

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When we breathe properly, we take in sufficient amounts of carbon dioxide and our breathing is calm, controlled, and rhythmic. When we overbreathe, our breathing becomes heavier and more intense; we exhale too much carbon dioxide and literally make our bodies struggle for oxygen. It is intuitive: If we breathe better, we increase the amount of carbon dioxide in our body, we can supply our muscles and organs - including the heart - more oxygen and thus increase our physical performance. Actually, we are doing nothing more than helping the body to function as it should.

The mountain comes to you

Let's take a look at altitude training, a training method that is used by top athletes to improve their cardiovascular fitness and endurance. During the 1968 Summer Olympics, which took place in Mexico City at an altitude of 2 meters, coaches and athletes first became aware of the possibilities of altitude training. Many participants found that their level of performance was above their personal best after returning to normal. They then urged their coaches to get to the bottom of it and find out if athletes perform better when they live or train at high altitudes.

At high altitudes, the air is thinner and the partial pressure of oxygen is reduced. The body adapts to this environment by increasing the number of red blood cells. Think of the red blood cells as Popeyes spinach, only that they come from your body instead of a can. The increased amount of red blood cells improves the oxygen supply to the muscles, promotes acid breakdown and increases overall performance.

This means longer endurance and a lower risk of inflammation and injury. The catch, of course, is that most of us don't live in the right environment for altitude training. But I would like to introduce you to an alternative approach: you do not need to go to the mountain, the mountain comes to you.

This is how you learn to climb your personal summit

You should learn how to reach your very own summit by simple steps. You can simulate altitude training. By learning this, you will increase the potential of your red blood cells and increase the capacity of your blood to take in and carry oxygen. In addition, the technique helps you to focus more on the psyche during physical activity, as the conscious process of breathing takes a back seat. This gives you the freedom to pay more attention to correct execution or to work on shaping your strategy in competitive sports.

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By reducing your breathing and properly regulating air intake, you are teaching your body to breathe more efficiently. You will be healthier. Regardless of the original training state, an improvement in breathing has an extremely positive effect on condition, endurance and performance. I can confirm that because I have experienced it myself: I used to chronically hyperventilate myself.


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