Breathing and Blood Pressure, Follow Up

As promised, this is a 3-week follow up test to the original pilot test I did exploring breathing protocols and blood pressure /…

Breathing and Blood Pressure, Follow Up

As promised, this is a 3-week follow up test to the original pilot test I did exploring breathing protocols and blood pressure / heart-rate.

To recap that experiment, I saw about a 10% decrease in my cardiovascular load (MAP * RHR) when checking my vital signs before and after the exercise. Of note, the effects weren’t persistent day-to-day (so my vitals returned to “normal” before the next day’s exercise). However, what’s interesting about that is that 10% is a helluva decrease. So, from the perspective of say mental-health this is a pretty profound coping strategy where we can see real-time biofeedback from our own bodies to confirm that a given strategy has an observable effect. This is a much different phenomenon than blandly recommending “breathing exercises” and expecting / hoping they will work. They do and will work, but it’s important for each person to see and feel that for themselves. At any rate…

For the follow up experiment, here is the protocol I followed from Shift/Adapt. One slight modification I made was that rather than “holding breath until urge to breath”; I simply exhaled as long as I was able.

I didn’t change my supplement, sleep, or training programs during this time; though I will note that simply participating in this practice made me more mindful of my breathing. So, by week 2 I was trying to only nasal breathe when walking the dog or doing a few kettlebell swings in the morning, or simply walking around and noticing my mouth was open (even slightly).

Overall the practice took about 15–20 minutes and I would usually do it to unwind before bed. Full disclosure, it’s rather effective so sometimes I wouldn’t make it through the entire regimen before falling asleep — definitely not a bad thing, but not the best for a controlled study!

Results:

  • RHR and MAP both went down by about 5%
  • CVL and BR (respiration rate) went down by about 10%
  • HRV increased by 10%
  • Maximum Exhale (CO2 Tolerance) increased by a whopping 73%

Discussion:

The decrease in RHR and MAP was modest (5%) though noteworthy. This corresponds to a proportionate decrease in CVL.

A decrease of 10% in respiratory rate is significant in my opinion. Given that you’re likely in a 12–20 range to begin with; a decrease of 1–2 breaths per minute is quite substantial. Similarly, HRV is probably in a range of 30–70 (roughly) and while RHR and BR remain fairly consistent, there is usually a good bit of variance (ups and downs) in HRV. Generally speaking higher is better, and an increase of 10% (going from 45 to 55 for example) is pretty significant.

Lastly, almost doubling (+73%) my maximum exhale is tremendous. Admittedly, at 22 seconds, it wasn’t great to begin with. I have no idea how my final number of 38+ seconds compares to anyone else, but this is a clear sign that I was either overbreathing (evidenced above) or in a far too stimulated state of mind / being — call it “stress” if you want.

Clearly I’ll continue to implement this practice as it has great benefits and I’m really curious about future breath experiments regarding athletic performance.

Reference: You can view the annotated date on Google Drive.
The “control” data group in this study was the 3-weeks of pilot data I previously acquired. The compared final data was compiled as the average of the third and final week. Blood pressure / MAP was computed after the 3-weeks trial on 3 consecutive days to conclude an average of all three days.

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