Impaired breathing habits limit your sports performance. If your breathing is impaired, you can’t run, swim, bike or maintain your concentration, strength, and endurance optimally. A study of 331 people, ranging from recreational exercisers to elite athletes, showed that 65 percent of the participants considered their breathing to be the limiting factor while performing maximally. But how many of us actively practice to improve our breathing for optimal oxygenation when we jog, bike, play soccer, golf, tennis or ice hockey?
|Effects of Impaired Breathing|
|Constricts airways||Harder to breathe|
|Constricts blood vessels||Decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to the muscles|
|Accelerates the formation of lactic acid||Getting tired faster|
|Reduces oxygenation of the muscles||Reduces ATP production, speed, and endurance|
|Acidifies blood and incerases free radicals||Increased risk of injury|
|Health problems||Less time to work out|
|Study of 331 athletes – What stops you at maximum performance?|
|Weak muscles (poor fitness)||15%|
|Tired muscles (lactic acid)||20%|
Why effective breathing is so important for increased performance
Your athletic performance can be improved through more efficient breathing habits and an increase in the blood’s oxygen carrying capacity. Let’s have a closer look at how we can use the often untapped potential of the breath to optimize your performance when you exercise.
Below we go through eleven reasons why you should apply Conscious Breathing in order to improve your athletic performance.
1. Creates open airways
A normal breathing volume at rest is about 6 liters (1,6 gallons) per minute. At maximum effort, the airflow can increase 30 times to about 200 liters (53 gallons) per minute. Because of that, it’s important that your airways are open so the air can travel in and out to your lungs as efficiently as possible when you exercise.
For each 50% reduction of the airway diameter, it takes 16 times more effort to move the air in and out of your lungs.
Reasons for tight airways
Good breathing habits ensure the airways are open and well-functioning, so let’s have a look at the leading causes of tight airways.
– Mouth breathing
Your mouth is designed to handle eating and drinking, and your nose is designed to handle air. The nose is like a very efficient heat exchanger. It prepares the air for your airways and lungs by heating, moisturizing, and filtering it. The air you inhale is full of bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and other particles. Since you inhale roughly 100 billion particles every day, that filtration is critical.
If you instead inhale through your mouth, the cold and dry air full of bacteria will cause tighter airways. They will become irritated, swollen and inflamed. There will also be an increase in mucus to remove particles, which also contributes to tighter airways.
A horse that weighs 500 kilos (1,100 pounds) has no problems oxygenating its powerful muscles, even though it runs more than twice as fast as Usain Bolt and only breathes through the nose.
But everyone knows you have to breathe through our mouth when you exercise, right? Is that really true?
On the contrary, I argue that it’s a big myth that we have to breathe through the mouth when we’re physically active. And that’s true even when we are performing at the top of our ability.
A recent study at CrossFit Karlskrona, Sweden, where ten CrossFit practitioners participated confirmed that nose breathing works just fine. You can find more information on that study here: “Study debunks the myth about the need for mouth breathing in physical activity“
If you are concerned about catching a cold for example, washing your hands will not suffice if, at the same time, you have your mouth open and inhale 10,000-15,000 liters (2,600-4,000 gallons) of unfiltered air every day (or even more if you exercise a lot).
Loads of mucus is produced in your nose every day. If the air isn’t circulating in your nose because of excessive mouth breathing, the mucus won’t clean out. And that can lead to infections like sinusitis and ear infections.
– Faster airflow
A normal breathing pattern at rest is about 6-12 breaths per minute. However, most of us tend to breathe for 2-3 people, taking 18-25 breaths per minute. When you breathe that fast, it increases the mechanical wear and tear of the airways and causes more inflammations and irritations in the airways
– Turbulent airflow
The nose is designed to create a streamlined airflow, thereby increasing the ability of the air to be transported to the lower part of the lungs. The opposite is a turbulent airflow, where the air swirls around in all directions, which is an inefficient way for the air to travel. The consequence of a turbulent airflow, which is more pronounced in mouth breathing, is that it takes more effort to transport the air in and out of the lungs, and the inhaled air ends up higher up in the lungs.
– Less nitrogen oxide (NO)
Nitrogen oxide (NO) is a hormone that’s produced in large quantities in the nasal sinuses and follows the inhalation air down into the lungs during nasal breathing. It widens the smooth muscle in the airways. When you breathe through the mouth, the air won’t be spiked with this important substance.
NO is also anti-bacterial, which is why mouth breathing causes reduced resistance to bacteria. On top of that, NO also widens your blood vessels. In the case of vasoconstrictions, your doctor will give you Nitroglycerin. This medication increases the production of NO which, in turn, causes your blood vessels to widen.
– Lack of carbon dioxide (CO2)
The cells in your body need about five percent carbon dioxide to function optimally. If that level sinks too low, the cell will die. Carbon dioxide is produced continually in the body and when we exhale we get rid of the surplus.
A lot of people have a mild form of hyperventilation, which means their breath exceeds the demand of the body. When we breathe too much, the outflow of carbon dioxide increases and causes tighter airways. The reason for that is that carbon dioxide, just like NO, has a relaxing and widening effect on the smooth muscles in the airways.
– Lack of water
Since the human body consists of about 70 percent water, the right levels are critical to our health. If there is a shortage, the body will try to minimize the outflow of water. Each time you exhale, you lose water because the exhale contains more water than the inhale.
A Swedish study found that 42 percent more water leaves the body when exhaling through the mouth compared to the nose. Over breathing also causes an increased outflow of water. When your body lacks water, it will adjust by increasing the levels of histamine, which is the water regulator of the body.
Histamine can constrict the airways to reduce the outflow of water, which makes sense considering a lot of water leaves the body each time you exhale. That’s also the reason why allergy medications contain antihistamines. They are designed to reduce the effect of histamine. By ensuring optimal fluid levels in the body, the defense mechanism of increased histamine levels is no longer necessary.
2. Creates an efficient gas exchange in the lungs
The inhalation air travels a long path similar to a snorkel before reaching the alveoli in the lungs. In medical terms this path is known as the “dead space”.
We have several hundred millions of alveoli, and this is where the action is. Here the oxygen is transferred from the inhaled air to the blood, and the carbon dioxide goes in the opposite direction – from the blood to the exhalation air.
Your respiratory tract divides into smaller and smaller parts, a full 23 times, before the air reaches the alveoli. So it is very important that the passage is open in order for the air to reach all the way down.
Naturally, the tighter your airways are, the harder it will be for the air to make it to the lower parts of your lungs.
When the air doesn’t make it all the way down, your breath becomes shallow. When that happens, a large part of the air just travels back and forth in the dead space.
Since the lungs are thin at the top and wide at the bottom, much like a V turned up side down, the upper part of the lungs has the least space for blood vessels and alveoli.
The blood flow is ten times greater at the bottom of the lungs (1 liter or 0.25 gallons per minute), compared to the top (1 deciliter or 0.4 cups per minute). The number of alveoli is also significantly higher in the lower parts. So, for the gas exchange to be efficient, the air should end up in the lower parts of the lungs.
A shallow breath is, therefore, a very ineffective way of breathing as it forces you to compensate by taking more breaths per minute. It’s kind of like driving a car with the parking brake slightly engaged, but instead of solving the problem by adjusting the brake (breathe lower), you step on the accelerator to increase the speed (take more breaths). You might end up where you want, but the journey requires more fuel and the wear and tear increases.
3. Efficient use of the breathing muscles
The diaphragm is your most important breathing muscle. It’s constantly active. The diaphragm and the heart are the only muscles in your body that never rest. The diaphragm looks like an upside down bowl or a parachute, and when you breathe, it moves downwards and flattens.
The diaphragm typically does 70-80 percent of the muscle work at rest, but if you don’t use it sufficiently, it will become understimulated, tense, and weakened. You probably won’t notice that your diaphragm is weakened when you rest, but it will be apparent when you’re physically active. For example, it may manifest as side stitches or you get tired quickly. When you breathe high up in your chest, you’re overusing the breathing muscles in your chest, neck, and throat.
Over use of these muscles causes them to become stiff, tense and shortened, which can lead to the common problem of tensions in neck and shoulders. And since your chest is connected to your spine, tightness can also be carried over and result in back pain.
Exercise the diaphragm and increase core stability
A low (equals deep but not big) breathing pattern in which the diaphragm works as it’s supposed to, is essential for the stability of your core. You can train your diaphragm by extending the exhale and squeeze out the air through:
a. Your lips pressed together, making an “sss” sound.
b. “Pursing” your vocal chords and “hiss” the air out through your nose (Ujjayi or Darth Vader breathing)
c. Using the Relaxator Breathing Retrainer.
That way, you’ll press the air out with your abdominal muscles while the diaphragm is pushed up. The higher the diaphragm goes when you exhale, the lower it will go on the following inhalation.
4. Increases the blood’s oxygen carrying capacity
In the lungs, the oxygen is transferred to the blood for further transport into the body. The oxygen travels in the blood bound to hemoglobin. An adult has about five liters (1.32 gallons) of blood. The body contains roughly 50 trillion cells. About half of those are red blood cells. A red blood cell contains about 300 million molecules of hemoglobin. Each of those hemoglobin molecules can, in turn, bind up to four oxygen molecules.
Thus, one single red blood cell can transport about 1,2 billion oxygen molecules. At a regular breathing pattern at rest, the hemoglobin is already saturated with almost as much oxygen as possible, about 96-99 percent.
Simulate high altitude training through reduced breathing
To increase your performance, you can boost your oxygen carrying capacity by increasing the number of red blood cells. Erythropoietin, or EPO for short, is a hormone that stimulates the formation of red blood cells, which increases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to the muscles. The EPO production increases when the kidneys notice that the oxygen levels are low. This is the effect that high altitude training provides.
At high altitudes, the oxygen pressure is lower, which causes the oxygen saturation in the blood to decrease. One study showed that when the oxygen saturation was less than 91 percent during 24 seconds while exercising at 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) altitude, the EPO levels increased by 24 percent. When the exercise was performed at 2,100 meters (6,900 feet) and the oxygen saturation was lower than 91 percent during 136 seconds, the EPO levels increased by 36 percent.
Hemoglobin is measured in grams per liter. A normal value for a man is about 130-170 g/l, and for a woman, it’s 120-150 g/l. The hemakrotite value indicates the amount of blood that contains hemoglobin and thus can bring oxygen. A normal value for men is about 42-54 percent, and 35-46 percent for women. The hemakrotite value usually correlates with hemoglobin.
Our blood bank, the spleen, releases more blood when oxygen levels are Low
The spleen is the blood bank of the body. It contains about 8 percent of the red blood cells. When the oxygen levels in the blood are low, the spleen perceives it as an increased need for red blood cells and releases some of its large blood reserves into the blood stream. This, in turn, leads to an increase in your ability to transport oxygen to the muscles.
The two factors that stimulate the spleen and EPO production are a) how much we reduce oxygen saturation, and b) how long this level is maintained. By reducing your breathing when you exercise — breathing through your nose and extending your exhale — you can lower the oxygen saturation and get the same effect as you would at high altitude training; increased EPO production and more red blood cells.
5. Provides open and unrestricted blood vessels
An adult has about 100,000 kilometers (more than 60,000 miles) of blood vessels, i.e., 2½ times the perimeter of the earth. All of these blood vessels aren’t fully open all the time. The body has advanced mechanisms that decide which of its parts will get more or less blood.
When you, for example, just have finished a meal, more blood is directed to the digestive tract in the abdomen. Another example is when you’re physically active. At these times, a larger part of the blood is directed to the muscles that are being active.
In the lungs, in the alveoli, carbon dioxide is transferred from the blood to the exhalation air, and the oxygen is transferred from the inhalation air into the blood. The oxygen rich blood leaves the lungs and moves on to the heart which, in turn, pumps it around in the body.
The red-colored blood indicates that the blood, on its way out into the body, contains a lot of oxygen.
The oxygen is then transferred from the blood to the cells, and the carbon dioxide that is produced in the cells gets transferred into the blood.
The blue-colored blood illustrates that it contains less oxygen and a lot of carbon dioxide on its way back to the heart and lungs.
Carbon dioxide has many important functions in the body, including a widening effect on the blood vessels, as it makes the smooth muscle of the blood vessels relax. Our breathing aims at maintaining a balance between the need of oxygen and the production of carbon dioxide.
You can compare it to how a car works. A car wants fuel. If it doesn’t get that, the motor can’t function properly, and eventually, it will stop. But the same thing also happens if it gets too much fuel. This will also cause the engine to malfunction and stop.
The need for fuel is different depending on the circumstances. It will be very different if you’re driving in a city or on the countryside. Optimum breathing means that it corresponds to your body’s needs, in every given moment, which ensures that the oxygen-carbon balance is maintained.
Lack of carbon dioxide causes tighter blood vessels
A normal breathing pattern at rest is only about three to six liters per minute, made up of about six to twelve breaths and a volume of half a liter per breath. However, many of us breathe a volume that is considerably higher, 10-15 liters per minute, made up of 18-25 breaths per minute and up to a liter of air per breath.
This kind of excessive breathing doesn’t correspond to the body’s needs and creates an imbalance between the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Specifically, it causes the blood to contain too much oxygen and too little carbon dioxide, which causes the blood vessels to constrict.
In one study, 10 participants biked as fast as they could on two different occasions, once breathing through the mouth and the second time breathing through the nose. One of the participants was Clas Björling, former Swedish record holder in the Triathlon Ironman (2005-2012).
He had a 10 percent lower heart rate (at 295 watts load), 139 when nose breathing compared to 155 when he was breathing through the mouth. This is a remarkably big difference for such a fit person and suggests that the heart needed to work less to oxygenate the body during nasal breathing.
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6. Cleans the blood and makes it more fluid
Your breathing habits have a significant impact on your blood. Here are the two most important ones:
– The blood gets cleaned
The lungs are the only organs that receive all the blood. An often overlooked function of the lungs is therefore to clean the blood. Since most of the blood flow in the lower parts of the lungs, it takes a low diaphragmatic breathing for this cleaning to be effective.
Carbon dioxide has an antibacterial effect. A study conducted at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden showed that the growth of staphylococci was 1,000 times higher when the bacteria were exposed to natural air for 24 hours, compared to the exposure of 100 percent carbon dioxide. Because of its antibacterial effect, carbon dioxide has been used ever since the 1930’s by the food packaging industry. Bread, cheese, chicken, and coffee are a few examples of products that are packaged in 100 percent carbon dioxide.
– The blood becomes more fluid
A lack of carbon dioxide, caused by over breathing, can lead to increased levels of platelets (thrombocytes). Platelets normally form when the blood is coagulating, and increased levels make it more viscous. In one study, twelve healthy participants were instructed to hyperventilate. On one occasion, they were breathing regular air. On the other occasion, the inhaled air contained five percent carbon dioxide, which is a hundred times more than normal.
On the first occasion, the carbon dioxide levels were halved in the body, while on the second occasion, they were almost entirely unchanged. The levels of platelets increased by eight percent when the participants were hyperventilating with normal air. When they were breathing air with five percent carbon dioxide, the platelet levels remained unchanged.
Blood consists of about 92 percent water and when there is lack of water the blood becomes more viscous. A Swedish study at The University of Gothenburg showed that 42 percent more water leaves the body when you breathe through the mouth compared to breathing through the nose.
7. More effective energy production and increased ability to burn fat
Thanks to oxygen, we can produce large amounts of energy and meet the huge energy needs of the body, which in a single day is almost the same as our entire body weight. Somewhat simplified, the energy production in your body happens mainly in two ways; with oxygen (aerobically), or without oxygen (anaerobically). When there’s no oxygen available, two ATP per glucose molecule (sugar) is generated in a simple and rapid process called fermentation.
The most efficient way to extract energy from nutrition is with the help of oxygen. This process is called combustion and occurs in the cell’s mitochondria — the energy factories of the body. This is where the bulk of our energy is produced, by burning nutrients and oxygen. The creation of energy in the mitochondria is slower than fermentation but, in return, it delivers 30-32 ATP. That’s up to 16 times more, from the same amount of glucose.
Another benefit of the mitochondria is that they also can use fat as fuel. Fat contains more energy than glucose, and a fat molecule can give rise to as much as 129 ATP. When combustion is taking place in the mitochondria, carbon dioxide is also formed, as opposed to fermentation, which instead produces lactic acid.
In conclusion, anaerobic energy production happens fast. Only glucose can be used as fuel, no oxygen is required, and it gives very little energy. Aerobic combustion in the mitochondria, on the other hand, produces energy slower, uses oxygen alongside glucose and fat, and creates significant amounts of energy.
In case of impaired breathing, less oxygen reaches the mitochondria, and since they can’t work without oxygen, there will be a decrease in energy production and fat burning.
8. Increased oxygenation of muscles and organs
How oxygen is delivered to the muscles and organs in the body is no coincidence. It is regulated by the activity within the cell. When you, for example, move your right arm, it uses up more oxygen compared to your left arm if it’s still. The more activity, the greater the need for oxygen so that sufficient energy can be produced.
Working muscles and organs produce not only energy but also carbon dioxide and heat. When carbon dioxide and heat exits a cell, pH in the blood is lowered. And lower pH causes oxygen, which travels in the blood bound to hemoglobin, to be released. That way, oxygen can enter the cell so that more energy can continue to be produced.
The ability of oxygen to bind to hemoglobin at different pH levels is called the Bohr effect, after being discovered by Danish physiologist Christian Bohr. The Bohr effect states that oxygen binds harder to the hemoglobin in the blood when the pH is high. When you over breathe, you lose too much carbon dioxide at the exhale, which increases the pH levels in the blood. As a result, the oxygen doesn’t reach the tissues, but instead stays in the blood bound to hemoglobin and is exhaled again. This, in turn, leads to an oxygen shortage in the tissues.
You can have a full oxygen saturation in the blood at 96-99 percent, but the lowered carbon dioxide levels cause too little oxygen to be released to the cells. Because of that, a higher proportion of the energy need has to be produced without oxygen. This, in turn, causes increased levels of lactic acid. The acidic lactic acid helps restore the pH of the blood, but it is just a short-term solution.
Carbon dioxide fire extinguisher pushes away oxygen
In order for a fire to burn, it needs something to burn in, as well as oxygen. To put out the fire, we can suffocate it by putting a blanket over it. Another way to go about it is to use a fire extinguisher that contains carbon dioxide.
The carbon dioxide’s ability to push oxygen away so that the fire dies out is similar to what happens in the body. In a working muscle, carbon dioxide exits the muscle and when it reaches the blood, it “kicks” the oxygen away from the hemoglobin so that the oxygen travels the opposite direction — into the muscle. That way, the muscle can keep working effectively.
9. Decreases stress and speeds up recovery
For an athlete, it’s rarely a problem to “switch gears into turbo mode” — activate the fight or flight response and increasing the levels of stress hormones like adrenaline — when it’s time to perform.
But the ability to put in a lower gear and slow down, to be able to quickly recover when the opportunity arises is a challenge for many. The ability to recover quickly is nonetheless a prerequisite for continuously being able to perform well over time.
Impaired breathing increases stress hormones
When the body is experiencing stress, the levels of adrenaline and cortisol are elevated. Adrenaline affects the airways by making them wider, increases the respiratory and heart rate, contracts the blood vessels to organs in the abdomen, and increases blood flow to the muscles of the arms and legs. That is the body’s way to prepare for the imminent danger it believes the stress signals are indicating.
In a study where twelve medical students hyperventilated regular air, adrenaline increased by 360 percent. In contrast, when they were hyperventilating carbon dioxide-enriched air (five percent), the adrenaline levels remained unchanged. Thus, hyperventilating regular air causes low levels of carbon dioxide, which leads to a strong stress response, partly because less oxygen reaches the cells (the Bohr effect), and partly because the airways and blood vessels contract and impair the gas exchange in the lungs.
Another hormone released by stress is cortisol, which increases blood sugar. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect. Inflammation takes place all the time, and it is a way for the body to take care of damaged tissue. Inflammation increases as we breathe through our mouths and expose our airways to cold and dry air that is full of bacteria and particles. In response, more cortisol is released into the body to suppress inflammations.
Decrease your basic stress levels with better breathing
The breath is our optimal stress reduction tool. There are three very effective ways to INCREASE stress just by changing the way you breathe. You can:
- Breathe fast and shallowly in and out through the mouth
- Hold your breath
- Create tight airways (a choke hold, for example, is extremely stressful)
By doing the opposite, and instead breathe slow, low, and rhythmically in and out through the nose, you can lower the stress and go the opposite direction and increase your physical and mental strength and ability to concentrate. Proper breathing activates the parasympathetic part of your nervous system — your “rest and digest”-system. By doing so, your heart rate lowers, digestion is improved, and the muscles in the blood vessels and airways relax.
10. Maximum power and relaxation during the exhale
How does a karate champion breathe while breaking bricks? While exhaling, right? When you exhale, you experience maximum relaxation, strength, concentration, and precision. The best results when hitting a golf ball, tennis ball, soccer ball, etc., is therefore attained while exhaling. If we want to increase the power, we tighten the abdomen muscles, purse the throat, and squeeze the air out.
Note that just tightening your stomach and holding the breath doesn’t provide the same power. That’s why we tend to hear boxers, tennis players, and javelin throwers make noises. That sound ensures that exhalation occurs while the stomach is tight and the throat is pursed.
Try punching a pillow while:
- Having your mouth open and simply releasing the air
- Squeezing the air through pursed lips or the nose while having your throat pursed. Also, try making sounds.
When the air is squeezed out, the stomach gets tightened. This creates an entirely different, much larger amount of force.
Extended exhalation increases relaxation
When you inhale, that’s an active action whereby the breathing muscles work to widen the chest to allow air to enter. The inhale causes the heart to beat faster, and the sympathetic part of the nervous system (the gas pedal) gets activated. At rest, the exhale, on the other hand, is normally a passive action. Here, the diaphragm returns to its original state, the chest and lungs deflate, and no muscles are used.
The exhale causes the parasympathetic, relaxing part of the nervous system (the brake pedal) to activate. The heart rests and recovers and the heart rate decreases. When your body is relaxed, you function better and can accomplish more with less effort.
A relaxed body is the basis for good sports performance. When your body is at its most relaxed, all its processes function optimally, and your ability to perform and recover is at its best. A relaxed breath result in a relaxed body and thus an improved ability for athletic performance.
A tense body, which is the result of holding the breath or exhaling in a way that is forced or too fast, creates tight muscles, which reduces coordination and increases the risk of muscle cramps and injuries.
11. Keeps you healthier
The nose can be considered as a very efficient heat exchanger. When you’re inhaling, your nose becomes cold and dry as it moisturizes and warms the breathing air which is usually colder than body temperature. And when you exhale, your nose is re-warmth and re-moisturized by the 37 degrees (Celsius) warm and 100 percent moist air from the lungs.
Furthermore, the air you inhale is filled with bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and other particles. Many of these get stuck as they come in contact with the sticky cilia in the nose. The nose is like a self-cleaning bacterial filter where the cilia either move the particles to the pharynx and we swallow them, or we exhale the particles out through the nose.
So, if you’re afraid of for example catching a cold, washing your hands is not enough. That won’t help if you habitually breathe with your mouth open and inhale unfiltered air every day, that contains up to 100 billion particles. It’s a bit like filtering mosquitoes and swallowing camels! The nose also produces a lot of mucus. If the air doesn’t circulate in the nose, the mucus doesn’t clear up, and that can lead to infections like sinusitis and ear infection. Humming is a great way to increase the airflow in the sinuses.
A cold nose creates a favorable environment for cold viruses
So when you breathe through your mouth, you bypass the body’s first line of defense against intruders. The further down into the windpipe the particles from the inhaled air ends up, the greater the risk of inflammation and infections. Given the enormous absorption area of the lungs (50-100 square meters, 500-1000 square feet), it is essential that they are kept free from bacteria. With that in mind, you could make the case that it’s as natural to breathe through the mouth as it is to eat through the nose.
Research shows that the rhinovirus, which is known for causing colds and infections in the upper airways, proliferate when the nose is cold. The colder the nose is, the less active the immune system becomes, which creates a favorable environment for the rhinovirus to multiply. We often catch colds during the night time, and one reason for that is that we have our mouths open when we sleep.
Language often gives clues to a deeper understanding of the various functions in the body. When you have a cold, that means you are too cold. You can learn more in the article Mouth Breathing Causes Common Colds.
Impaired breathing increases the risk of injuries
One reason inflammation occurs is the free oxygen radicals that are continuously being produced in the body. The reaction is the same as when metal rusts, or when the pulp of an apple turns brown when exposed to light and oxygen. When oxidations occur in the body, the number of inflammations increases to curb the small damages that occur on the blood vessels.
The problem arises when we produce too many free radicals, which is a result of breathing too much. When we inhale more oxygen than the body needs, it increases the formation of free oxygen radicals. And when that happens over a longer period of time, the inflammations become chronic which, in turn, can result in pain, fatigue, and injuries.
This article is based on the book Conscious Breathing.