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Author Topic: Breath-holding and High Intensity exercise -- is Breath Holding important?  (Read 4224 times)

Offline Caleb

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Is Breath-holding while exercising important in terms of improving fitness?

Recently there have been studies showing that High Intensity workouts may be particularly effective. 

My question is this: Could much of the effects of the usefulness of High Intensity workouts be due in part (I would argue in large part) to breath-holding? I would actually bet quite a few pieces of gum that it would be.

For quite a few years, I have modified my walking, biking program, by holding my breath while exercising. This seems to increase the cardiovascular demands and I think I sweat more quickly, my pulse goes higher, etc., simply because I am breathing less while I exercise.

In recently described High Intensity workouts, people almost certainly fairly rapidly become breathless. And I think that becoming breathless while exercising may well be very, very important -- working the cardiovascular system and laying down new capillaries, generally strengthening the heart, etc. Kind of like working at high altitude.

Any thoughts about this?

Yours,

Caleb
« Last Edit: 11/01/2014 05:48:56 by Caleb »


 

Offline CliffordK

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I'm not sure about exercise in general.  It sounds risky.  Your muscles may have some anaerobic energy, but is there a risk of passing out?

I've heard that it is considered dangerous to hold one's breath while lifting weights.
 

Offline RD

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I'm not sure about exercise in general.  It sounds risky.  Your muscles may have some anaerobic energy, but is there a risk of passing out?

I've heard that it is considered dangerous to hold one's breath while lifting weights.

For the same reason people "do an Elvis" ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilet-related_injuries_and_deaths#Drop_in_blood_pressure_and_dangerous_Valsalva_maneuvers
 

Offline dlorde

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Deep breathing is good exercise for chest & lungs, but as I understand it, the key to high intensity exercise is to get your heart rate up over 80% of its maximum for 30 seconds or so - you'll get pretty deep breathing if you can do that.

The idea is to gain cardiovascular fitness, so I don't think holding your breath is a good idea at all when your heart is under stress and needs all the oxygen it can get...
 

Offline Caleb

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Ever since I mentioned this notion aloud (about 15 years or so ago), I have had many people say that this is a dangerous, wrong-headed approach. For example, a well-known Texas clinic sent me an email that said that one should never hold one's breath while exercising.

Hmmm.... That would sure limit swimming events, weight-lifting (which restricts breathing at times), etc.

The amount of CO2 one can put up with is a measure of fitness, I have read. I think that most healthy people feel very uncomfortable about their levels of CO2 well before it can become dangerous. (I'm not a physician, etc., and am speaking only for myself.)

I have tried breathing every fifth step or so on a treadmill and have seen my pulse level rise substantially as compared to when I am on the treadmill and am breathing freely. On my recumbent bike, I often breathe every 5th cycle or so, or sometimes every 4th.

Seems to me that this kind of breathing restriction is similar to the kind of exercise one gets at altitude.

I remember about 20 years ago there was running equipment that limited the amount of oxygen one was breathing but I don't know the experiences people had with that.

The world is a funny place.

Yours,

Caleb
 

Offline David Cooper

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If you've been experimenting with this for 15 years, have you any statistics to show that it's helped you improve your fitness? I hope it doesn't work, because if it does it might make sport at the highest level more dangerous for all, but then maybe that's just how it has to be.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Weight lifting may be different than other sports in which one contracts large muscle groups simultaneously, and at extreme intensity.  Stopping breathing at the same time could cause extreme pressure swings in the lungs.

I believe in swimming, and diving, people are often instructed to slowly exhale, and thus you wouldn't be exerting extra pressure in the lungs. 

So, for your exercise, you should be safe enough to extend your exhale period. 

As far as high altitude training, Perhaps you could simulate it to some extent with reduced breathing.  I wonder if you could also simulate it with altering your O2/CO2 concentrations.  Perhaps that is what you're doing in a simple form.  But, presumably one could run a medical oxygen concentrator backwards to create a very specific Oxygen/Nitrogen/CO2 mix in the air one is breathing.

Would that change your hemoglobin/hematocrit?  Lung capacity?
 

Offline RD

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As far as high altitude training, Perhaps you could simulate it to some extent with reduced breathing ...

Or sleep in a tent with a low oxygen environment  ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altitude_tent 

[ don't try this at home ]
 

Offline CliffordK

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I like the idea of the altitude tent. 
Training while one sleeps  ;)

Perhaps one could also use a medically controlled hypobaric chamber, although the tent is simpler.
 

Offline Caleb

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Actually, I think several abstracts published on pubmed.gov fairly clearly support the usefulness of breath holding while exercising.

In http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24282212 is this: Br J Sports Med. 2013 Dec;47 Suppl 1:i74-i79. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-092826. “Repeated sprint training in normobaric hypoxia.” Galvin HM, Cooke K, Sumners DP, Mileva KN, Bowtell JL.

The above study compared sprint training using either normal oxygen levels (21%) or hypoxic levels (13%). The authors open their abstract with this:” Repeated sprint ability (RSA) is a critical success factor for intermittent sport performance. Repeated sprint training has been shown to improve RSA, we hypothesised that hypoxia would augment these training adaptations.” They concluded with this: “Twelve RS training sessions in hypoxia resulted in twofold greater improvements in capacity to perform repeated aerobic high intensity workout than an equivalent normoxic training. Performance gains are evident in the short term (4 weeks), a period similar to a preseason training block.”

Seems to have been a dramatic training effect.

Another study is this (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18331220):

High Alt Med Biol. 2008 Spring;9(1):43-52. doi: 10.1089/ham.2008.1053. Effects of intermittent hypoxia training on exercise performance, hemodynamics, and ventilation in healthy senior men. Shatilo VB, Korkushko OV, Ischuk VA, Downey HF, Serebrovskaya TV.
The authors open with: “The efficacy and safety of intermittent hypoxia training (IHT) were investigated in healthy, 60- to 74-yr-old men. Fourteen men (Gr 1) who routinely exercised daily for 20 to 30 min were compared with 21 (Gr 2) who avoided exercise.” They concluded with this: “Thus, healthy senior men well tolerate IHT as performed in this investigation. In untrained, healthy senior men, IHT had greater positive effects on hemodynamics, microvascular endothelial function, and work capacity.”

In the above study, the hypoxic condition consisted of rebreathing.

Sure makes sense to me that people who are out of shape will benefit the most from this kind of approach.

I think we can clearly see this kind of approach at work in military training camps, where people jog and chant/sing at the same time. Chanting and singing certainly would raise the effort level up quite a few notches. Maybe an important point to make is this -- we are either free-breathing or we aren't. If we take long sentences, we are suspending our breathing a bit. (Physiologist Brad Pillon, in his weight control book, "Eat-Stop-Eat" says "either we are feeding or fasting", and that is an interesting and insightful way of looking at eating, I think.)

I really would like to see studies on this effect, perhaps using fruit flies and mice to see whether intermittent hypoxia would lead to a training effect, and maybe also to greater longevity. Similarly, I wonder if this process would also lead to training effects in humans— whether simply limiting oxygen would be helpful physiologically (especially to those who cannot exercise), in terms of bolstering cardiovascular fitness, laying down more blood vessels, etc.

Exercise itself makes us stronger through an adaptive process, and maybe intermittent hypoxia itself would be another form of that adaptive tendency. And interestingly, maybe an important step (in terms of one approach to fitness) is running out of breath, often enough and also for a long enough time.

Yours,

Caleb
« Last Edit: 12/01/2014 19:12:40 by Caleb »
 

Offline evan_au

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Quote
weight-lifting (which restricts breathing at times)

I heard that the breath-holding and grunting of weight-lifters has the effect of putting air pressure in the stomach, which provides a bit more support for the spine, which is under severe stress during a lift?

But the weight lifters spend quite a few seconds in heavy breathing before and after a few seconds of lifting.
 

Offline dlorde

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I heard that the breath-holding and grunting of weight-lifters has the effect of putting air pressure in the stomach, which provides a bit more support for the spine, which is under severe stress during a lift?
Air pressure in the stomach?? that really doesn't make any anatomical sense. Holding the breath while straining (e.g. to lift weight) is essentially the Valsalva maneuver, which can have major effects (potentially risky) on blood pressure, heart rate, etc.
 

Offline Caleb

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I am not a physician, medical person, etc., but tightening the body leads to an increased capacity for work (has to do with basic mechanics, I think, with levers, fulcrum points, etc.). Very difficult to pick up a large weight if one is not braced for it.

When people lift heavier objects they routinely tighten their body, grunting as they do so. Then they release the weight and can go back to regular breathing. I am fairly sure you will almost never, ever see normal speech being conducted when someone is performing very heavy work. One is low on breath in such conditions, and the effort required (leading to a tensing of the body, etc.) further interrupts speech.

Frankly, I have thought for a long time that swear words may be more guttural than most other words because swear words are close to grunts and can more easily close off the airways, thereby permitting the body to tighten and more work to be done.

Yours,

Caleb
« Last Edit: 12/01/2014 21:52:46 by Caleb »
 

Offline dlorde

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It's certainly true that core body strength is important when lifting, and while the general advice is to exhale while lifting and inhale while lowering, at times of maximum effort there is often an involuntary Valsalva maneuver, which is not a problem for trained, healthy individuals. Sedentary individuals are advised to use caution when lifting significant weight, and to observe correct form and breathing - I've seen someone faint from the blood pressure drop after moving the sofa - luckily the sofa broke his fall ;)
« Last Edit: 12/01/2014 22:04:35 by dlorde »
 

Offline RD

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Olympic lifting and short distance sprinting is anerobic , you pay back the oxygen debt later.
 

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