Over the years we have been told not to breathe too hard, we would hyperventilate. Hyperventilation is the result of breathing too hard and too fast, resulting in feeling lightheaded or dizzy, an increased heart rate and an overall “weird” feeling. It is often accompanied by tingling in your arms and legs. Most of the time hyperventilating results from anxiety and stress. It is caused by a decrease in carbon dioxide in the blood and It is usually looked at as “not a good thing”. The cure is to focus on controlling your breathing, slow it down deliberately, and get your stress and emotions under control. The goal is to take in less oxygen and let the carbon dioxide increase in your system.
But recently, hyperventilation is being looked at as a method to increase athletic performance, increase mental clarity, and turn feelings of depression and anxiety into a controlled feeling of well being.
Wim Hof (yep, that’s the spelling) is an adventurer who heavily promotes rapid deep breathing as a tool for better physical and mental performance, and a lot of top names such as Laird Hamilton, the most well known of all big wave surfers, hold this method of breathing in high regard.
Hof claims that his method of deep, fast breathing will “significantly improve your energy levels, detox the body and release toxins, relieve stress and tension, and strengthen your immune system.” (www.wimhofmethod.com). He also says that by using his breathing method, your body’s pH level will become more alkaline (that’s good).
Although he has an online course available for sale, Hof is not just promoting another crazy fitness fad. He has brought in the scientific community to monitor him closely as he tests his theories. And lest you think Wim Hof is just another self-promoting nutcase, you should know that he climbed to 22,000 feet altitude on Mt. Everest wearing only shorts and shoes, but couldn’t finish the climb because of a foot injury. He did, however, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in two days in his shorts. He also ran a full marathon in the Namib Desert without water. The run was performed under medical supervision.
Oh, and he also holds the Guinness record for being submerged in ice; a record time of 1 hour and 52 minutes.
So how does this apply to Seniors? Personally, I do a Qi Gong exercise that involves deep, fast breathing and I end up in a hyperventilated state. Yes my limbs get tingly and I get light headed. But I have been doing it as part of my overall exercise routine for a long time. Personally I don’t like the feeling. On the other hand, I also do a lot of regular deep breathing exercises and that makes me feel energized.
I don’t think most seniors want the hyperventilated feeling. I don’t think it’s in our best interests to get light headed and unbalanced at any time, even if it may provide some theoretical benefits. Most of us are not interested in becoming high performance athletes, and even if we were, the jury is still out on the real benefits of hyperventilation as a performance tool.
I will be covering controlled deep breathing in the next article and will discuss the many physical and mental benefits that just plain good, deep breathing has to offer.
Thank you for reading.