How Long Can You Hold Your Breath?
This is a HUGE longevity marker!
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Did you know that your ability to breathe efficiently is the #1 longevity marker? It’s called “vital capacity” and you want to increase yours if you want to live a LONG life. I do!
From a National Institute of Aging meeting described in Science News 1981:
"Findings resulting from a 5,200 clinical study group observed over a 30 year span showed that pulmonary function measurement is an indicator of general health and vigor and literally the primary measure of potential life span.”
The Basic Idea
How long can you hold your breath? According to well-documented studies, the longer you can do so comfortably, the longer you will live. I had no clue this was so important!
Lung capacity has never been my strong suit and when I discovered the link between capacity and longevity, I freaked out a little. Here I am taking tons of vitamins, eating good clean farm-fresh food, avoiding processed poisons, detoxing regularly, doing some exercise everyday… and I find out what I should be doing is practicing holding my breath!!!
Well, I jumped right on it! Hal and I are doing Wim Hof’s guided breathing exercise every morning: 35 breaths then a hold as long as you can. (Click here for his book, here for the website, here for the app.)
These are notes that stood out in particular from the articles and books listed at the bottom under Resources.
❥ The optimal amount of breaths per minute is 5.5 with a 5.5 second inhale and a 5.5 second exhale. This increases oxygen in tissues and organs. To inhale and exhale S-L-O-W-L-Y is the best way to prevent many chronic health problems, improve athletic performance, and extend longevity.
Thems a lot of claims from just breathing… something apparently we take very much for granted!!!
❥ In his book Breath, James Nestor writes that according to modern medicine, the lungs lose about 12 percent of capacity from the age of 30 to 50 and will continue declining even faster as we get older, with women faring worse than men. Bones in the chest become thinner and change shape, causing rib cages to collapse inward. Muscle fibers surrounding the lungs weaken and prevent air from entering and exiting. All these things reduce lung capacity. At the age of 80, we will be able to make 30 percent less air than we did in our 20s. We are forced to breathe faster and harder and this leads to chronic problems like high blood pressure, immune disorder, and anxiety.
Aging & Overbreathing
As we age, many of our physiological functions start to break down, leading to the degeneration of the physical body. One of those functions is shallow breathing: as you age, you breathe faster, less deeply, and into your upper chest.
This is known as shallow breathing or “overbreathing”.
One of the main problems is that, while you overbreath oxygen, you breath out too much CO2. This creates a dangerous imbalance in O2 and CO2. (Learn the details of this in the resources below.)
This creates a form of chronic tissue hypoxia that has been linked to a variety of age-related health concerns, even death.
Hypoxia means that cells are unable to get the oxygen they need to survive.
Chronic (long term) cellular hypoxia is ultimately linked to cell death and the opportunistic proliferation of mutagenic stem cells, aka disease.
Conversely, short term hypoxia is GOOD.
While chronic cellular hypoxia contributes to aging, a lack of oxygen in SMALL doses (breath holding) can actually trigger a well-documented rejuvenating effect called intermittent hypoxia.
Longevity research has linked states of intermittent hypoxia to increased production of the longevity enzyme AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase). Living a long and healthy life requires maintaining an optimal level of AMPK, which commonly declines with age, but, as we’re learning, can be reversed with breathing exercises.
AMPK triggers the rejuvenating process of autophagy—a natural survival response of cellular recycling—while mTOR blocks it. Autophagy is triggered by hypoxia as well as short-term calorie restriction (aka Intermittent Fasting).
When food or oxygen rations are temporarily low, the body becomes more resourceful and economical in its delivery of cellular fuel via AMPK. The body goes into a no-waste program that is life extending.
And how about this study?
In 2017, a doctor took 76 respiratory cancer patients and had them do MBE (Morning Breathing Exercises); the control group of 46 did not. Both groups were followed for 10 years.
The five-year survival rate for the MBE group was 56%; for the control group it was 19%.
The 10-year survival rate for the breathing group was 17 times greater than the non-MBE control group.
During the second five years of the study, the increase in survival rate was linked to an increase ability to hold their breath after an exhalation.
We are all in :) Are you practicing intermittent hypoxia? How are you doing, what are you exercises, who do you follow? I want to know it all!
Review of “Breath” by James Nestor, get it here (we did the audio book, excellent)
Get the Wim Hof app here for guided breathing exercises. There’s a to of free stuff but we paid $45 for a year of instruction — a ton of help here. It is worth it if you’d like to live a lot longer :)
This Optimal Breathing blog post on longevity is very good and thorough.
Science News, August 1, 1981 Vol 120 | No. #5