Breathing, Muscles and the Mind - The Tools of Fitness Pt. 1

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

When you adopt a personal program that combines the above three tools, you got the most effective program for physical and mental fitness.  Replace the traditional and narrow concepts of breathing, muscles, and the mind with the following more scientifically accurate concepts:    

Breath is not just the breath for life, but also the source of mental and physical energy, and endurance.  

Muscles are not just the tools of physical action, strength and endurance, but also play a major role in mental relaxation, positive mental attitude, and general state of mind.  

Mind is not just a problem-solver and a data bank, but it is also the regulator of our health and the master healer in times of sickness.  

 Breath brings in the oxygen that goes to our muscles and the brain.  Efficient breathing, in perfect coordination with heart, is experienced as a state of pure joy and relaxation.  The breath and the muscles are responsible for our level of endurance and energy.  To illustrate this point, let's take the example of a treadmill test, especially the last one minute of the test.  In the last one minute, your doctor puts a tube in your mouth so you can breathe pure oxygen while running as fast as you can.  The more oxygen your muscles use, the fitter you are.  If your muscles use a lot of oxygen, it also means that you burn up a lot of sugar and fat, and thereby a lot of calories.  

 Oxygen consumption is measured in milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight, per minute.  One of the best oxygen consumption rates ever measured was 80.  This was of an athlete named Steve Perfontaine.  He measured 80.  Frank Shorter, who is an Olympic marathon runner measures about 75.  A person who is out of shape will measure around 20.  Therefore, let's assume that the range of our oxygen consumption per kilogram of body weight is between 20 to 80.  Athletes in top shape may take three to four times more oxygen to their body than a person out of shape!  That can have a lot of impact on our physical and mental efficiency.  

 This difference in the amount of oxygen people take in or deny themselves, does not depend on the relative efficiency of lungs alone, but muscles also play a big part in it.  With regular and continued exercise program, your muscles begin to use oxygen more efficiently.  To appreciate this fact, picture richly red blood going from the heart to the muscles, with the muscles sucking the oxygen out of the red rich blood, and the dark blue blood returning to the heart through the veins.  When your muscles are in top shape, they use oxygen more effectively, and your lungs absorb oxygen more effectively.  

 What percentage of your body is made of muscles?  If you are a man in reasonable condition, it is about 40 percent, and if you are a woman about 32 percent.  Do you know how many calories are consumed by this 40 percent or 33 percent of your body, called, "muscle mass?"  The answer may surprise you.  In a non-obese person with normal food intake, ninety percent of the energy from the food goes to the muscles. The ability to take in oxygen and burning it is in the muscles.  The fitter the muscles are, the more oxygen they receive, and more sugar and fat they burn.     

 We have discussed oxygen consumption while exercising, but what about the time when we are not exercising?  Does everybody who is disease-free take in the same amount of oxygen while sitting, lying down, standing, resting, or doing nothing?  No, they don't. People vary enormously in the amount of oxygen they breathe in.  The difference can be observed in each breath we take.  

 Each time we breathe in, we take about a pint of air.  On average, we take about twenty-four thousand breaths a day.  The majority of adults develop faulty pattern of breathing, that is, we tend to suppress diaphragm breathing which results in under-utilization of the bottom section of the lungs.  What makes the problem even more acute is that the bottom section, compared to the upper and the middle section of the lungs, is most efficient for intake of oxygen and the release of carbondioxide.    

 As such, we under-utilize our capacity to absorb oxygen, but when we are upset, anxious or stressed out, we further compromise our oxygen intake.  This is so because we tend to overbreathe or underbreathe when we are in negative emotional states.  Sometimes, unfortunately, these negative emotional states last for a long time.   

 With this background in mind, let's do some calculations.  Suppose, John takes ten percent less oxygen for each breath, which is really a very mild case of under-utilization.  Since John takes twenty-four thousand breaths a day, he is supposed to process twenty-six thousand pints of air.  Approximately twenty-five percent of  the air is oxygen.  Ten percent less air for each breath comes to a whopping total of twenty-six hundred fewer pints of air a day, and thereby, six hundred pints of less oxygen a day .  Did I tell you John takes about 8.5 millions breaths a year?  I hate to do that calculation.   

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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