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Improved Breathing: Wim Hof Breathing for the Mouth Breather

man jogging - struggles as a mouth breather

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Jogging has its challenges as you get older.  Joint issues and decreased stability are the obvious ones.  A greater challenge is being a ‘mouth breather’ during cardio exercise. Mouth breathing while jogging means to struggle for air which results in poor air exchange. it can lead to reduced stamina and sub-optimal oxygenation of muscles. The Wim Hof Breathing Method, is a technique that is known for improving breathing capacity that focuses on quick but deep nasal breathing. By using this technique it’s possible to breathe more naturally and efficiently while doing mildly strenuous cardio exercise.

 

Understanding Mouth Breathers

What is Mouth Breathing?

A mouth breather describes someone who inhales and exhales air primarily through the mouth instead of the nose. This is usually caused by nasal obstruction due to cold, flu, or allergies for most people.  It may also be caused by chronic conditions such as a deviated septum or enlarged adenoids, impacting overall health.

 

The Impact of Mouth Breathing on Health

Mouth breathing during exercise can lead to various health issues. It usually results in less efficient oxygen exchange that can cause a decrease in blood oxygen levels. This could lead to quicker fatigue and reduced endurance. Generally, chronic mouth breathing is also linked to dry mouth, poor sleep quality, and even alterations in facial structure [1]. Additionally, it can affect the body’s ability to retain carbon dioxide, which leads to an imbalance in the body’s pH levels, potentially impacting overall health [2].

 

The Wim Hof Method: An Overview

Origins and Principles

The Wim Hof Method developed by Wim Hof, a Dutch extreme athlete, involves combining breathing techniques, cold therapy, and mental focus. Hof, known as “The Iceman,” developed this method based on a personal family tragedy [3], His method evolved to  withstand extreme cold and eventually running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle barefoot. The main principle of the Wim Hof Method is to harness the power of breath to regulate the body’s response to stress and improve resilience and well-being.

 

Scientific Backing

Wim Hof’s Method has gained popularity not only from health enthusiasts but also from the scientific community. Research has shown that this method can influence the autonomic nervous system and immune response. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that individuals trained in the Wim Hof Method could influence their sympathetic nervous system and immune response, which wasn’t previously thought to be possible [4][5]. The relevance to people in their 50s shows a way to boost resilience against stressors and improve overall health, including respiratory function.

 

Wim Hof Breathing and Jogging

Benefits for the Mouth Breather

For mouth breathers, especially those over 50, the Wim Hof breathing technique can be helpful. By training the body to rely more on nasal breathing, it can help reduce the reliance on mouth breathing, which is less efficient. This shift can lead to better oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange, increased energy levels, and potentially enhanced aerobic capacity. Moreover, the method’s focus on controlled, deep breathing can help in managing the breathlessness often experienced by mouth breathers during jogging, leading to a more comfortable and effective workout [6]. The Wim Hof Method’s potential to improve lung function and respiratory efficiency could be a significant advantage for older joggers looking to maintain or improve their jogging performance.

 

Wim Hof - Improved breathing for a mouth breather

 

Practical Guide to Wim Hof Breathing for Joggers

Getting Started

To begin adding the Wim Hof breathing technique into your jogging routine, start with the basic breathing exercises in a comfortable, seated position. This involves a cycle of deep, controlled breaths followed by a moment of retention after exhalation. Begin with 30 deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. After the last breath, exhale fully and hold your breath for as long as comfortable. Finish the cycle with a deep breath in, holding for 10-15 seconds before exhaling. This practice, done regularly before jogging, can help train your respiratory system for enhanced performance [7].

 

Progressing with the Technique

As you become more comfortable with the basic breathing exercises, start integrating them into your jogging sessions. Begin your jog with a few minutes of Wim Hof breathing to prepare your body. During jogging, focus on maintaining a steady, rhythmic breathing pattern, inhaling and exhaling through the nose as much as possible. This nasal breathing is key to optimising oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide expulsion, crucial for efficient jogging performance. Post-jog, engage in another session of Wim Hof breathing to aid in recovery and relaxation.

 

Remember, the transition to this new breathing style may take time, especially for habitual mouth breathers. Patience and consistency are key. As you progress, you may notice improvements in your breathing efficiency, endurance, and overall jogging experience.

 

Overcoming Challenges

Common Difficulties and Solutions

Adopting the Wim Hof Method can come with challenges. One common difficulty is getting used to changing breathing patterns. Most people don’t practise deep diaphragmatic breathing. Wim Hof Breathing involves controlled hyperventilation which increases oxygen levels and removes carbon dioxide.  It can therefore cause lightheadedness or a slight sense of panic. Because of this it’s important to start slowly and practice in a safe, comfortable place. Increase the duration and intensity of the breathing exercises as your body adapts [8].

 

My Experiences as a Mouth Breather While Exercising

As a 50+ year old man who struggles breathing while jogging or even during a  brisk walk, I wanted to see if the Wim Hof Breathing method would help. I find that I breathe out of my mouth when jogging and gasp for air frequently so I wanted to try this method for 5 days to see if it made a difference.

 

Nasal breathing regulates the air, warms it and makes it more suitable for your lungs.  Mouth breathing doesn’t provide these benefits making it difficult to do cardio exercises for mouth breathers.   

 

Confession: I have previous experience doing Wim Hof method breathing, although I haven’t practiced it in a couple years.  

 

Day 1

I started the first day with 3 set of 30 breaths but have to admit I lost track a couple of times so can’t be entirely sure how many breaths I took..  I also found myself pausing between breaths to blow my nose.  I was able to hold my breath for 1 minute the first set and 1 minute thirty seconds for the second and third sets.  As I went through the breathing exercise I found my breathing became easier as my nasal passages began to clear a bit. I immediately went for a walk.

 

I wasn’t up to jogging giving my breathing problems so I decided to go for a quick short walk with my dog.  My neighbourhood has some steep hills and so I took a path up a hill to ensure I would feel challenged when breathing.  I focused on breathing only through my nose during the walk but found myself taking a few breaths out of my mouth after saying hello to a couple of neighbours.  Overall I found it difficult to breathe out of my nose exclusively but I managed.  

 

Day 2

I did 3 sets of 30 breaths again today.  The exercise seemed easier than yesterday but I still had a lot of nasal congestion. Again, I immediately went for a walk after the breathing exercises.

 

Off my dog and I went for a brisk walk.  Today I focused on developing a breathing cadence but still found it a bit difficult to breathe fully.  I found my air intake restricted and uneven through each nostril.  This was a longer walk than yesterday and I found myself haven’t further difficulty breathing near the end of my walk due to congestion.  No, I don’t have a cold or the flu. Ugh.

 

Day 3

I altered my pattern from the previous days and had better success: I added a breathing session the night before and during the morning in addition to the one prior to my walk.  I experienced more air flow while breathing through my nose.

 

I decided to take the steep hill again today and quickly completed the walk.  Again I focused on a steady breathing cadence and found my air intake was less restricted but I still had difficulty bringing in a full breath.

 

Day 4

As I did yesterday, I again included breathing sessions the night before, prior to going to bed, and this morning.  My nostril congestion seems to be clearing up.  

 

Today is warmer (but slushy and wet) so I decided to take a longer, faster walk.  As per the previous days I focused on developing a steady cadence of breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth.  The walk went well.  I had much more airflow through my nostrils making the walk easier. 

 

Day 5

I started by increasing my breathing sets to 5 sets. I wanted to see if this would not only help clear my nasal passages and but also increase the amount of air I am able to inhale.  I definitely felt better prior to my walk, even though I was slightly light heading when I initially got up to go.

 

I focused on my breathing pattern more today and found that I was able to breathe easier through my nose, although I still had some nasal congestion. 

 

I’m happy with my progress but I feel I will need to continue these breathing exercises to improve my nasal breathing efficiency enough to go for a jog.

 

Staying Motivated

It may seem difficult to stay motivated especially when your progress seems slow. Being able to breathe through your nose even a little bit more each day  is a great motivator. 

 

By adopting a slow and gradual routine, you can effectively incorporate the Wim Hof Method into your jogging routine. This will lead to improved breathing, better endurance, and a more enjoyable jogging experience.

 

Conclusion

The Wim Hof breathing Method provides a promising solution for the mouth breather who struggles while doing cardio exercise.  This method is based on controlled breathing and mental focus offers an approach to improved overall well-being.  The benefits range from improved breathing efficiency to increased stamina to effective stress management.  Embracing the Wim Hof Breathing Method is not just about jogging more efficiently; it’s about enhancing your overall quality of life. 

 

You may also like Breathing for healing for men over 50.

The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the support and guidance of your physician when you are unsure about any health issues.

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