By Doug Setter
Most health and fitness books for seniors totally miss the mark when it comes to losing belly fat and lowering blood pressure. Almost every article and book on the shelf preaches the same approach for tummy flattening and lowering blood pressure: dieting and exercising.
I used to buy into that theory until I knew a former fitness trainee, who left my class to study yoga and Pilates. Within a few months, she went from a pretty plump to strikingly slim. When I asked her what she did, she explained that for about three months, she had practiced mostly posture and breath control. And little or no cardio.
That is when I had to take another look at my training classes. So, I re-read an old yoga book by Selvarajan Yesudian and Elizabeth Haich.
Yesudian told a story about a 40 year old lady office worker who was unable to lose weight. She had tried several exercise routines, including boxing and weight loss formulas (like laxative teas) with no results. When she approached Yesudian, he had taught her yoga breathing and how to apply it to swimming. While she was swimming, he noticed that she tended to hold her breath instead of the normal breathing pattern for the front crawl.
It then occurred to the yoga instructor that the lady's metabolism was altered by the her breathing patterns. This irregular breathing reportedly can affect the thyroid gland and cause weight gain or loss.
When Yesudian re-taught the lady how to perform the front crawl with two strokes per breath, she started to lose weight. 10 pounds the first month and 8 pounds the next month.
Now, in the western world fitness training, we were always instructed to exhale while exerting ourselves. Holding our breath while straining, known as the Valsalva Manuvere, can lead to hypertension and high blood pressure. But we did not learn much more about breathing than that! Nothing about lowering blood pressure or body weight.
So, how do some people develop proper breathing patterns?
Short answer: some of it is self-learned at an early age. Some of it is genetic.
So, it is not the fault of the older person who gains excess weight and/or develops high blood pressure.
This writer has seen how a change in breathing improves performance during fitness classes. Many beginners just cannot seem to catch their breath. A few manage to adapt if they stick it out for several weeks. They start to learn to exhale while exercising. This is exactly the same advice given to some people with asthma. They are taught the importance of exhaling. It is that simple. (But not easy.)
Try this experiment.
Take a deep breath, hold it and try to bend forward at the waist. Soon you may feel blood flushing in your face, temples pounding and maybe even dizziness. (Note: do not do this if you are prone to dizzy spells.)
Then breathe normally.
Next do the same movement. Only this time, take a deep breath and then let it out as you bend forward at the waist. Breath fully out and then force more air out. Then a little more. As you straighten up, let the air fill your lungs rather than sucking air in.
It might take you a few tries to get the right flow. It is important not to get frustrated the first time that you do this. Instead, relax, focus, take another deep breath and start again. Pause and repeat until you can do it five times without gasping for air.
Now this movement is flexing the spine, stimulating circulation and stimulating digestion. So, very little to do with burning Calories.
The next stage is to add the long, deep breaths into activities such as walking, jogging, rowing, swimming or what have you. It is really that simple IF (and a big IF here), you do it five days a week or more. 15 minutes at a time. I kid you not. I have seen it work time and time again. Have fun.
Doug Setter is a personal trainer, health consultant and author. He holds a Bachelor of Human Ecology (Foods and Nutrition) degree and is the author of Flat Gut After 50, Reduce Your Alcohol Craving and One Less Victim (Crime victim prevention). Visit his website at: http://www.2ndwindbodyscience.com
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