Deep Breathing

Would you like to know a simple health secret?

Try deep breathing.  One of the most vital elements needed in our bodies is Oxygen.  It is a primary component for our metabolism. Oxygen is also the most critical element for healing internal tissue damage.  However, most of us don’t forcefully draw enough Oxygen into our bodies.
First let’s consider the percentage of Oxygen in the air around you.  Here is a breakdown of air:

Nitrogen N2 78.084%
Oxygen O2 20.9476%
Argon Ar 0.934%
Carbon Dioxide CO2 0.0314%
Neon Ne 0.001818%
Helium He 0.000524%
Methane CH4 0.0002%
Krypton Kr 0.000114%
Hydrogen H2 0.00005%
Xenon Xe 0.0000087%

Second – the average person only extracts approximately 76% of the available 20.9476% Oxygen in the air.  We don’t absorb the entire amount present because our bodies can only transfuse so much Oxygen per inhalation.  The absorption rate is dependent upon the presence of hemoglobin (the O2 transport mechanism in our blood) and the permeability of our lung tissue.  (Smokers are voluntarily restricting their permeability.)  We don’t absorb any of the other molecular constituents in the air.  We only absorb Oxygen. Let me give you a visual model to understand how much O2 is actually absorbed in our lungs.  If the entire molecular make-up of air could be represented by 100 pellets and 21 of these pellets represent the O2 portion of air, the average person would only absorb 16 of these 21 O2 pellets and leave 5 O2 pellets in the lungs. They would also leave behind 79 pellets which represent all the other random molecules in our air.  As we exhale, we add CO2, H20 and N2 molecules (pellets) back into the air.

When I say that only 76% of the present O2 is absorbed, notice that this is the case for the “average” person.   One of the many benefits from Cardiopulmonary conditioning is the ability to extract a slightly higher percentage of Oxygen out of the air (17 – 19 pellets).  By the way, have you ever seen a professional athlete holding an Oxygen mask to their face sucking on 100% pure Oxygen?  The benefit is purely psychological.  It doesn’t matter if you ram 100% pure Oxygen into your lungs.  If 100% Oxygen is present in your lungs, your body will only absorb approximately 16-19% of the available Oxygen and leave the rest behind until the next inhalation.

Third – At rest, we only exchange about 60% of the air in our lungs. Approximately 40% of your lung’s volume is chambered air that shifts up and down in the alveoli and bronchioles without actually exiting your lungs.  Shallow breathers can exchange as little as the the top 30% of their lung capacity leaving 70% of their air chambered in the lower lobes of their lungs.  Point – Your lungs are never completely void of air.

It is this third reason, chambered air, that deep breathing becomes so valuable to our general health.  Deep breathing enables you to forcefully exhale and replace a larger percentage of the chambered air in your lungs.  Deep breathing is a very specific technique called Diaphragmatic Breathing. Drawing a deep breath into your lungs requires full distention of your belly.  This mechanism draws downward on your diaphragm which pulls air deeper into the lungs.  Deep breathing is NOT expanding your rib cage.  This is far less effective than diaphragmatic breathing.

Deep breathing vacates more of your chambered air and enables your body to absorb more Oxygen across a larger surface area in your lungs.  It is also a basic technique for relaxation used in meditation and yoga.  I encourage three deep breaths at the end of every Boot Camp class.  This enables everyone to force out any chambered air and it brings the heart rate down to a resting metabolism much more quickly.

Try to use Deep Breathing on a regular basis – first thing in the morning, throughout the day, when you feel stressed and before going to bed.  It’s a simple and highly effective technique for good health.

SUCK IT UP! (Literally)

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