We are always pleased when things about breathing get into the media – we sometimes feel like nobody cares about the lungs so it’s nice when our area of research gets some attention! Last week, though, Stylist magazine had a feature about ‘the importance of breathing properly’, which was so full of incorrect information that we thought it would be worth blogging about. We can’t go through every bit that was wrong – we’d go on for ages – but here are three parts that were a long way off the mark:
- “An estimated 80% of us who don’t breathe the way we should”. Well, the human race seems to have survived quite a long time despite being so awful at something that we need to do right to stay alive.
- “Breathing through the nose releases nitric oxide, which widens blood vessels”. True, there is some of this gas in your nose, but in such tiny concentrations (a few millionths of one percent) that it couldn’t possibly have any influence on your blood vessels. Also, widening blood vessels in your lungs (which is where the nitric oxide would act if indeed it had any chance of doing so) is not generally a good thing unless you have particular diseases.
- “Most people… do not inhale enough air in one go to fully oxygenate their system”. This really is rubbish. Your body has heaps of receptors and nerves whose job it is to check oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood and to change your breathing pattern in tiny ways to make sure everything is kept exactly right. There’s a whole part of your brain that’s responsible for making sure your breathing pattern matches your body’s requirements exactly. It’s only when you are really sick that this can go wrong, and even then your body tries really hard to keep oxygen levels up (that’s why people with lung disease feel breathless, because their body’s trying so hard to get everything back to normal).
Bad science makes us cross, and can be dangerous. Breathing too much, as many of the exercises in this article seem to encourage, can make you feel dizzy, have tingly hands, and sometimes actually faint, so it’s not at all helpful of the writers of this article to tell everyone to breathe deeper all the time. Your body knows what it’s doing – leave it to its job and get on with your life! Keep your eyes peeled for more bad science and tell us if you spot any…