You could lower your blood pressure significantly in 30 seconds if you just do this: breathe deeply.
In a study, that simple act helped lower the study participants’ systolic blood pressure. In fact, the study participants only had to do it six times to see their systolic pressure dip as much as 10 mm Hg! Not too shabby for a few slow in-and-out breaths.
Blowing Off Steam
The study involved nearly 20,000 Japanese adults with either normal blood pressure or high blood pressure. Some of the study participants sat alone quietly doing a breathing exercise that involved taking six deep breaths over the course of 30 seconds. The rest just sat quietly doing nothing for the same amount of time. Both activities were good for the study participants’ vitals. But afterward, the systolic blood pressure readings in the deep breathers had dropped much more dramatically than the people who merely sat quietly.
The overall blood pressure and pulse rates of both groups were healthier after the quiet time. So the real point here may be that calming activities of any kind are important for relaxing blood vessels and the heart. The researchers suspect that the blood pressure benefits of the two activities in the study were at least partially due to their calming effects on the sympathetic nervous system.
Breathing is one of those things your body does that you don’t have to think about. But we YOU Docs think you should pay attention to it every now and then, or you’ll miss out on some major health benefits, especially for your lungs. That’s because deep breathing:
- Brings oxygen deeper into your lungs
- Moves more nitric oxide (which widens blood vessels) to your lungs, which helps your blood vessels and lungs work better
- Removes toxins by getting lymph moving
- Calms you
Here’s a quick test: Stop reading, and inhale and exhale normally, looking down as you do. If you don’t see your belly moving, your breathing is short and shallow. Now try this:
1. Lie flat on the floor, one hand on your belly, the other on your chest.
2. Inhale deeply and slowly as you count to five. Your belly button should move away from your spine, and your chest should widen and rise slightly as your lungs fill with air.
3. Exhale slowly to a count of seven. Your belly button should pull toward your spine.
4. Let your belly button be your guide. When you deeply inhale, feel your belly button go out as your lungs fully expand with air. When you deeply exhale, feel your belly button suck in as you blow out old air and carbon dioxide.