We can all develop the ability to breathe slowly and deeply – and recent research proves it has many health benefits.
A series of studies has revealed that slowing the respiratory rate from the typical 12 to 18 breaths per minute to 3 to 6 breaths per minute significantly lowers blood pressure, both in healthy individuals and in patients with conditions like hypertension and chronic heart failure. This shift in breathing rate also diminishes the chemoreceptor reflex response to hypercapnia and hypoxia, which exerts profound effects on blood pressure regulation. Furthermore, the parasympathetic system’s activation through slow breathing helps mitigate short-term, wide fluctuations in blood pressure.
Slow breathing has also been linked to a reduction in bronchodilator usage and an improvement in the quality of life for patients with asthma. Experimental studies and clinical trials have demonstrated that slower breathing suppresses the production of TNF-alpha, a potent pro-inflammatory cytokine. This leads to an improvement in disease severity for patients with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.
In contrast, autonomic imbalance due to dysfunctional activity in the gut-liver-brain vago-vagal reflex reduces the number of peripheral regulatory T cells, which contributes to gut inflammation and the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel diseases.
While deep (or diaphragmatic) breathing may initially feel unfamiliar to many, it is a crucial skill that we can all cultivate. To begin, practice slow and deep breathing for 5 to 10 minutes and gradually extend this time to 15 minutes. Consistency is key, so aim to incorporate this practice into your daily routine for maximum benefit.
In summary, incorporating all these practices into a well-rounded fitness routine can lead to a holistic approach to health, addressing both physical and mental wellbeing. A balance between intense exercise and gentler practices offers a comprehensive strategy for optimal health and vitality.