In today’s post, I’ve provided you a very simple, but very effective test you can do right now to assess how well you breathe. This is the very same test we use with our athletes and clients here at Performance U.

But, before I get into the test, I’ve got a few important things to mention about the scope of practice of a fitness professional.

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Should Personal Trainers Assess and Attempt to Retrain Breathing Patterns?

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Currently, there’s lots of talk around the fitness training world about assessing breathing patterns and  retraining breathing patterns using specific breathing exercises. We at Performance U feel this to be far beyond the the scope of practice of a fitness professional and best left to a qualified physical therapist. Specifically in the case of breathing patterns, a speech pathologist.

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It’s our feeling that Fitness professionals are not trained to evaluate things of this nature and don’t have the understanding to, as world renowned physical therapist Mark Comerford says: “tell the difference between dysfunction and a variation of normal”. Many experienced PT’s have trouble with assessments like these and in many case are working on a ” best guess”. Physical Therapists (PT’s) spend their entire career learning about how to properly assess and treat dysfunctions. You can imagine the trouble a Fitness Professional would have giving an accurate assessment after only attending a weekend course or reading a book.

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Secondly, if you’re going to try to “fix” something – You’d better  make sure it’s broken first! Simply looking at whats moving while some one takes a breath doesn’t tell you about the quality and effectiveness of how they breathe. However, this simple test I’m going to tell you about will!

Plus, we all are of different heights, weights, body types and abilities. It only makes sense there will also be many variations of breathing patterns.

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Here’s a very simple, generalized breathing test we use here at Performance U.

ANYONE can easily use this to test how well you or some one else breathes. This test was designed by world renowned breathing specialist,  Dr. K. P. Buteyko who invented the Buteyko method or Buteyko Breathing Technique.

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In 2008, The British Guideline on the Management of Asthma granted permission for health professionals in the United Kingdom to recommend Buteyko, stating that the method “may be considered to help patients control the symptoms of asthma.

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How to Perform The Breathing Test

(The below information is taken from NormalBreathing.com)

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“Sit down and rest for 5-7 minutes. Completely relax all your muscles, including the breathing muscles. This relaxation produces natural spontaneous exhalation (breathing out). Pinch your nose closed at the end of this exhalation and count your BHT (breath holding time) in seconds. Keep nose pinched until you experience the first desire to breathe. Practice shows that this first desire appears together with an involuntary push of the diaphragm or swallowing movement in the throat. (Your body warns you, “Enough!”) If you release the nose and start breathing at this time, you can resume your usual breathing pattern (in the same way as you were breathing prior to the test).”

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“Do not extend breath holding too long trying to increase the control pause. You should not gasp for air or open your mouth when you release your nose. The test should be easy and not cause you any stress. This breath holding time test does not interfere with your breathing.”

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MEDICAL WARNING ABOUT THIS BREATHING TEST

.(taken from NormalBreathing.com)

“Some, not all, people with heart disease, migraine headaches, and panic attacks may experience negative symptoms minutes later after this light version of the test. If this happens, they should avoid this test.”

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Importnat Notes on this Breathing Test

.(taken from NormalBreathing.com)

“There are two important factors for the oxygenation index or stress-free breath holding time test: first, it is done after your usual exhalation (outhale); second, the test it is done only until the first signs of stress or discomfort. The first factor excludes differences in our lungs’ capacity. Influences of previous training and will power are eliminated by the second factor. Pinching the nose is also important for accurate results since we continue to breathe unconsciously (about 10% of our usual breathing) if the nose is not pinched. Here is the complete instruction.”

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Scoring The Breathing Test

.(taken from NormalBreathing.com)

“If a person breath-holds after a normal exhalation, it takes about 40 seconds before breathing commences”  From the textbook “Essentials of exercise physiology” McArdle W.D., Katch F.I., Katch V.L. (2-nd edition); Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, London 2000, p.252.

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“Doctor Buteyko and his medical colleagues tested hundred of thousands patients and found that the following relationships generally hold true for the body oxygenation index:”

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1-10 s – severely sick, critically and terminally ill patients, usually hospitalized.
10-20 s – sick patients with numerous complaints and, often, on daily medication.
20-40 s – people with poor health, but often without serious organic problems.
40-60 s – good health.
Over 60 s – ideal health, when many modern diseases are virtually impossible.

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These results are in agreement with western medical and physiological research articles and studies, which are summarized on these 2 web pages:
CP (oxygenation index) in sick people
CP (index of tissue oxygenation is seconds) in healthy people

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How does this test relate to breathing?

.(taken from NormalBreathing.com)

“The bigger your breathing, the smaller your body oxygenation index. If we accept the international norm of 40 s and your time is 20 s, you breathe for 2 people. If you have 10 s of oxygen in the body, you breathe for 4 people. Hence, if you breathe less, you naturally increase your control pause.”

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“I said about measurements of breathing: the control pause is done for measurement of breathing. Not breathing retraining, but its measurement. It is started after exhalation. Breathing retraining is another business. The control pause does not train breathing, but measures it. This is not treatment, this is a measurement.” Dr. K. P. Buteyko, “Dr. Buteyko lecture in the Moscow State University on 9 December 1969”

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So What’s the Solution to Better Breathing?

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The first solution to improving your breathing is usually the answer you already knew – exercise more and eat better! The second solution is just as simple – practice better postural habits!

My postural speech to my clients is simple “Stand/Sit up straight like you’ve got some pride!” Put simply, better posture usually means better breathing!

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If the above isn’t enough, I suggest you read and use the exercise recommendations in this article written by my very dear friend, Personal Trainer to many Pro ATV Racers and co-inventor of the Core Bar, Marc Spataro in his article titled “Breathe, Stupid, Breathe!“.

Also, Yoga classes are a nice option as they usually utilize some simple and effective breathing techniques.

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If any of the above options don’t work and you feel you’re breathing is still poor after putting your work in – Go see a qualified rehabiliation professional who specializes in “fixing” this sort of thing, like a speech pathologist.

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As always, I encourage you to comment below with your comments on today’s post. Plus, share with us how well you did in the breathing test!

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