- Do you breathe from the mouth sometimes while going through your daily routine?
- Do you breathe through your mouth while sleeping? Waking up with dry mouth is a sign.
- Do you snore?
- Observe your breathing right now- are you breathing from the chest or abdomen?
- Do you sigh regularly?
- Do you hear yourself breathing during rest?
Answering yes to even one of these questions means that you are over- breathing. These are typical symptoms of what happens when the amount of air we breathe in, is more than what we need. Just as over-eating is bad for body, so is over-breathing.
I realized, a few months ago, that I also over-breathe. Breathing was something which never came to my mind whenever I thought of a fit life for myself. Then one day I came across an article about breathing that caught my eye. I was experiencing waking up at night thirsty. I was snoring. And many days I woke up tired and groggy despite sleeping for eight hours. This led to lot of reading and listening to podcasts on correct way of breathing. And it just changed the whole perspective towards a healthy and fit me.
We can survive without food for weeks and without water for days but not even a few minutes without air. We give so much attention to food for a healthy body but seldom is any attention paid to how we breathe.
I, like most people, always thought or was advised that taking in large amounts of air into the lungs during rest will increase oxygen content in the blood. Based on this understanding, I would take deep breaths during rest and training, especially after a run when the body was over taxed. Now I realise that I have been doing completely opposite of what should have been done. This habit was, in fact, diminishing my performance and recovery. As counterintuitive it may seem, the urge to take deeper breaths when we hit the wall during exercise, does not provide more oxygen to muscles but reduces oxygenation.
Because of the Covid pandemic, all homes now have Oximeter and we know that we are fine if we have oxygen saturation of 95-99 percent. The idea of taking bigger breaths, to inhale more oxygen, is like providing more food for energy to an individual who is already eating enough for his/her caloric needs. Our goal should be to let this oxygen reach muscles and brain efficiently for a healthy, energetic life. And Carbon di-oxide is the doorway which lets oxygen reach your muscles. When we breathe, in excess of what is required, then too much Co2 is exhaled from the lungs and thus is removed from the blood. If your blood saturation is normal and you constantly feel tired or fatigued, you may be breathing wrong. Not enough oxygen is being released from your blood to your tissues and muscles. This happens because too much Co2 has been expelled from the body. You will feel lethargic and exhausted.
In 1904, Danish physiologist Christian Bohr discovered the Bohr Effect, which in simple terms is Haemoglobin releases oxygen when in presence of Carbon dioxide. Over breathing limits the release of oxygen from the blood and in turn effects how well our muscles are able to work.
How Fit are you? Take the Bolt Test.
- Hold your nose after you breathe out with your fingers to prevent air from entering your lungs.
- Count the number of seconds until you feel the first definite need to breathe
- You may feel a jerk in your abdomen or around your neck. Release your nose and breathe through it.
- Your inhalation should be calm at the end of breath. If you are breathing heavier than normal means you have over-held your breath.
Note your time. The ideal BOLT score for a healthy individual should be 40 seconds. Most people manage 20 seconds or less. I managed 23 when I tried it the first time. Now it has improved to 30 seconds.