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How Breathing Has a Huge Impact on Health

By Sophie Rasmussen

This March the Danish television channel “DR” investigated the effect and health benefits of breathing properly. They interviewed experts and put some different exercises into practice, realising the vast differences that simply breathing properly can make. This brought to light a very interesting and crucial part of health that isn’t so often realised.

You may not have realised how your own breathing changes throughout the day and what the change could possibly entail, but here is some interesting information regarding the different types of breathing. Nanna Gram Ahlmark, a researcher at the National Institute of Public Health spoke about how in a stressful environment in daily life, breathing can become shallow and faster than normal, the body then becomes panicked in reaction to this and releases stress hormones. This is not beneficial to your body in the long term. 

What can really help create a conscientiousness about breathing, is doing simple deep breathing exercises. Practicing a routine of utilizing the entirety of your lungs whilst breathing gently, could eventually pave the way for a less stressful lifestyle, a more controlled temper and even better digestion as well as lower blood pressure. It is amazing to think that such a simple act can be so related to health and have a connection to your body. 

In the Netherlands, researchers have started to look into how controlled breathing can have an impact on the autonomic nervous system. This relates to another method, created by Wim Hof, in which cold and breathing are brought together to potentially help in curing anxiety/stress, chronic pains and autoimmune diseases. Wim Hof is a Dutch health guru, who combats cold and uses his method to effectively enhance his lifestyle. Once in 2009, he climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in nothing but swim shorts displaying his strong ability to endure cold. There is some degree of scepticism amongst many regarding the supposed health benefits of this method, but a patient in an investigation done in Denmark named Anne Sofie Espersen who lives with multiple sclerosis claimed that she felt the differences significantly. She felt that her body functioned better, and would complete the Wim Hof inspired exercises every day.

The autonomic nervous system is part of the body’s functions that you yourself are not able to regulate, and your breath can be used to help gain control over some aspects of it. The two parts of the autonomic nervous system are the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The former activates when the body feels endangered or is under stress, whereas the latter works against it and promotes good digestion, and helps the body replenish its resources. Breathing can help to induce the parasympathetic nervous system naturally in the body, to create peace within oneself.

Try and complete deep breathing exercises often and notice the impact it has on you.

Here are some links to some exercises you could try, and Wim Hof’s official website with courses: 

https://www.wimhofmethod.com/practice-the-method#dynamic-page-section4

https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2255