Benefits Of Slow Breathing
Updated: May 25
How to make slow breathing a daily health habit in 4 steps.
Why I started performing slow breathing exercises?
“The doctor wants to talk to you about the blood test,” said the nurse worryingly. As I was sitting in the waiting room I felt close to having a panic attack. Heightened anxiety which I thought had long gone was creeping back in. What nasty disease have they found during this regular medical checkup?
That’s when I thought about using a box breathing exercise used by the Navy Seals to calm down and get focused before a mission. I tried the recommended breathing pattern of inhaling/holding breath/exhaling/holding breath. In about 5 min I started to feel better. “How bad could it be?
Surely enough it was a mistake. A repeat blood test was fine. This experience with a box breathing exercise however made me explore slow breathing in more detail.
Slow breathing medical term?
Slow breathing is taking the world by storm. In a way it is similar to the explosion of interest in meditation around 10 years ago. Should we make it a part of our daily routine?
Slow breathing means reducing the rate of breath from usual 12-20 breaths per minute to 5-7. This brings two primary benefits.
1. It activates a parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for ‘rest and digest behaviour’. We become calmer. This effect can be objectively measured with HRV (heart rate variability). Or, less accurately, with changes in our pulse. More on this below.
2. It raises the level of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the blood and ultimately leads to a better O2 (oxygen) absorption. It helps to address some respiratory disorders. Our brains get more O2 and we start thinking more clearly. Scientists also hypothesise that slower breathing decreases oxidative stress in our bodies. Hence, increasing our life span.
What is the scientific evidence of health benefits of slow breathing?
1. Conclusion from a recent scientific paper on this topic: “Controlled, slow breathing appears to be an effective means of maximising HRV and preserving autonomic function, both of which have been associated with decreased mortality in pathological states and longevity in the general population” . In plain English: Slow breathing makes you calmer. Being generally calmer means living for longer.