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How to improve blood pressure and cardiovascular health through breathing

For those that may not be aware we recently added a Breathing class to our timetable at SOF. 

It has been on our to do list for a little while now and it adds another string to the bow that is providing a comprehensive, evidence based group fitness program.

 

So why breathing? 

 

For a large majority that do exercise, there seems to be the assumption “flogging myself is the best and only way to be fit and healthy”. We see it first hand when people begin training with us, they believe they need to do more and go harder, rather than train smarter.

 

We added the breathing class to give our members another opportunity to tap into the other side of the spectrum, the yin to the yang, the down as opposed to the up. 

 

This class is something that applies to every individual, irrespective of their age and fitness levels, which is one of the reasons it has become popular so quickly. Through the doors of the Platinum studio, we have seen interesting and polar opposite clients groups walk-in, ready to take part in breathing practice.

 

One being your typical young fit and healthy male that regularly strength trains and includes conditioning a few times a week, the other being a fit over 50s member with elevated blood pressure. 

 

Our young fit and healthy male had a really interesting response. 

Using his Whoop band (wearable tech that measures heart rate and determines rest, recovery, sleep, fatigue and performance) two interesting results came up. 

  1. During the class we saw his resting heart rate drop to a low of 39 (he has a low resting heart rate as is) and really shift to a more relaxed state compared to his training session the hour before. 
  2. What was more interesting was his sleep performance that night. He saw a significant increase in the amount of REM and deep sleep and his overall sleep quality was much higher than normal with an improved number of sleep cycles. 

 

What's the evidence regarding sleep quality and meditation?

 

Studies have shown that active breathing exercises (meditation) were endowed with enhanced states of SWS (slow wave sleep/deep sleep) and REM sleep compared to that of individuals that practice no meditation before hopping in bed. 

Breath and meditative work (very similar in mechanism neurologically and physiologically) is seen to benefit all age groups. 

This study found increases of 17.95%, 11.3%, and 10.63% of deep sleep (SWS) among younger (30–39 years), middle (40–49 years), and older (50–60 years) age groups respectively.  

With a larger deep sleep stage in an individual's sleep cycle, muscles have more time to repair and grow, as growth hormone is dispersed more frequently with the added time. On the other hand, the corresponding non-meditating controls showed a significant reduction of SWS with increasing age, i.e.11.29%, 6.65%, and 3.94%.

 

It’s a pretty simple and obvious rule, take the time to slow down and switch off and you’ll get a heap more from your body! 

 

So what cardiovascular health?

 

Our Fit Over 50s client who attended the breathing session also had similar positive results. Whilst she regularly monitors and manages her blood pressure, the occasional life stresses can elevate it. 

A significant observation was a marked reduction in her blood pressure post class. She noticed a particular shift in the diastolic pressure which was sitting in the hypertensive range above 80 pre class and a shift down to the mid 70s post. 

 

Scientifically, meditation has seen to have a noticeable role in decreasing the BP of subjects older than 60 years of age, whereas yoga seemed to contribute to the decrease of subjects aged less than 60 years.

 

According to evidence, physical relaxation, commonly known as yoga, has been seen to have many effects on blood pressure for Individuals with pre and stage 1 hypertension. 

Results have seen an average drop of systolic BP by -9.44mmHg and diastolic BP by -2.38mmHg. 

Healthy individuals have also seen a decrease in systolic and diastolic BP by -3.92mmHg and -3.61mmHg respectively.  

Individuals younger than 60 have seen similar results to those who have not displayed onset of hypertension or in stage one by individuals older than 70 has shown a significant decrease of systolic BP by -11.40mmHg. 

What's even more interesting, psychological relaxation, like our breathing classes, have seen the widest range of effects on BP reduction (SBP: −8.89 mmHg; DBP: −6.25 mmHg) in older individuals. 

 

Cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer in the western world and becomes quite frightening when it rears its ugly head. We know that prevention is a much easier way to go as opposed to cure. So for those that want to get the most out of their brain and body and enjoy life make sure you consider both ends of the health and training spectrum. 

Our breathing class is held at 6:30pm Wednesday and 5:30pm Friday every week. If you are unsure about the train smarter not harder ethos, this is exactly what you need to begin with. Come along and discover the benefits of breathwork for your body and life.

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