Exercise and Anxiety

In my experience, persons partaking in regular physical exercise have better control of their condition than those who don’t. This article is about exercising safely and getting the maximum benefits from it.

The importance of exercise

There are only two ways to increase CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the human organism. The first is to reduce breathing volume and the second is to produce more CO2 by engaging in physical exercise. CO2 is generated through inner respiration from the process of converting food and oxygen into energy. An exercising muscle generates more CO2, thus encouraging the release of oxygen from haemoglobin to that muscle. Remember that the presence of CO2 loosens the bond between oxygen and haemoglobin within red blood cells.

Nasal breathing

A low CP (Control Pause) corresponds to greater breathing volume. As a result, never breathe through your mouth if your CP is lower than 20 seconds, as your breathing will be greater than what your body requires. You can open your mouth during sports for short periods when your CP is higher than 20 seconds. All of your breathing should be through your nose. Initially, this might feel impossible because of an ingrained habit to breathe through your mouth.

But don’t worry, as breathing through your nose is easy to master. In the beginning, you might find that you are unable to walk as quickly as you can with your mouth open, as a sense of breathlessness will be more intense. In a few days, this will pass and your walking will steadily improve. It is a case of quality over quantity. Your breathing volume will increase during exercise. This is not a problem when there is a reasonable match with your metabolic requirements. However, the lower your CP, the poorer the match; hence, the need to control your breathing.

Feel the need for air and do enough exercise to create a sweat

To get the most benefit from physical activity, feel a need for air. In other words, get to a point where you are breathless. Ideally, spend enough time doing physical exercise to produce sweat. Walking at a good pace with your mouth closed for half an hour to one hour is great exercise. When your CP is low, it is very easy to disrupt your breathing so be careful. Go gently and don’t push yourself beyond the point that you cannot control your breathing. At the same time, feel a tolerable need for air. If your need for air is so great that you feel like you have to open your mouth, slow down and calm your breathing. You recover faster if you keep your mouth closed. If you are walking for exercise, walk alone or agree with your walking partner to not talk. Talking will only undo the benefits of exercise.

Feel relaxed throughout

As you commence your physical exercise, alternate your attention between your breathing and your inner body. Exercise is your time, so don’t spend it worrying about problems. For the half-hour, commit yourself to bring your attention to your breath or body over and over again.

Each day, I try to get out for one hour of exercise. I thrive on it and if I cannot do it because of rainy weather, I feel like I missed something from my day. As I walk, I bring attention to my breath. I follow my breath and breathe diaphragmatically. I sense the area around my tummy. If it is tense, I bring attention to it and encourage it to relax. Any tension will dissolve with a little imagination and mental encouragement. I bring attention to my breath. I follow my breath. Is it quick? Is it easy? Is it fast? Is it hard? Is there a need for air? Is there no need for air? I follow my breath.

At first, my breath is relatively quiet. I walk for the first ten minutes to accumulate carbon dioxide before I increase my pace. This helps keep my breathing calm as I move to a jog. During my jog, I just follow my breath, keep my attention on my inner body and feel relaxed. It is wonderful to bring attention from your head and into the body. I keep my mouth closed for the entire duration of my jog. I continue to watch my breath and feel my inner body. I can feel slight vibrations rising through my body as I take each step. At the same time, I try to completely relax my tummy. Sometimes, thoughts enter. I keep an eye out for them and, as soon as they enter, I bring attention back to my breath.

This type of physical exercise is a form of meditation and is a great opportunity to take attention from my mind and bring it to the inner body. In addition, because I push my body a little, my mind activity stops. After a few minutes, I can feel the high from exercise. My body is warm and sweating, my breathing is faster and my head is clear. Because I keep my mouth closed throughout my jog, my breathing recovers quickly.

No matter what exercise you do, watch your breath and feel your inner body. Repeat to the tension around your tummy: relax, relax, relax.

How to determine if you are breathing correctly during physical exercise

Measure your CP before exercise; Perform physical exercise;

Measure your CP 15–30 minutes after you have completed your exercise.

Your CP measurement 15 minutes after exercise should be greater than your CP measurement before exercise.

Bear in mind two points:

1. If your CP is measured immediately after exercise, it will probably be lower than your starting CP because of the existing air shortage.

2. If 30 minutes after exercise your CP is still lower than your starting CP, you were breathing excessively during exercise.

 People who exercise are more relaxed

Stress reflects changes in our body primarily to help us. When we are stressed, the fight or flight response has been activated and our body is programmed for physical activity. To release this activation, go out for a walk or a jog or whatever exercise you enjoy. If you are unable to remove yourself from your environment, control your breathing and, later that day, ensure that you get some physical activity.

Those who exercise regularly are calmer and more productive than their colleagues. Exercise enables quicker recovery after activation of the fight or flight response. Chemicals that are released are removed quicker and your body’s systems can return to their normal operating rates. Exercise also releases pent-up negative energy, enhances self-esteem and is a useful tool to use to escape from work and other commitments.

The following is a summary of the key points regarding physical exercise.

1. It is essential to do some physical exercise.

2. Exercise within your capabilities.

3. Try not to breathe through your mouth during exercise if your CP is less than 20 seconds.

4. The lower your CP, the more careful you should be while performing physical exercise.

5. Feel the need for air during physical exercise.

6. Perform thirty minutes to one hour of physical exercise per day.

7. Make sure to go gently with your mouth closed for the first 10 minutes.

8. Make sure to calm your breathing immediately following exercise.

9. Walk, don’t talk.

Breath hold during exercise

This exercise involves holding your breath on the out-breath while engaging in any physical activity. You can do this while walking, skipping, using a trampoline, cycling, etc. This is a very effective exercise for ensuring that your breathing is reduced, calm and gentle during the day. The length of time of your breath hold depends on the state of your health and your CP:

• While walking breathe in, breathe out and hold your breath

• Walk 5 to 20 paces with your breath held

• Resume breathing and continue to walk

• After 30 seconds to 1 minute of walking with normal breathing, repeat breath hold as above

• Repeat small breath hold every half minute to one minute

• Ensure that your inner body is relaxed throughout

• If there is tension in your tummy or chest, encourage this area to relax

Maintain control of your breathing throughout

There is no hard and fast rule as to how many times you do this. The more often you perform breath holds throughout the day, the better. The objective with any exercise is to produce a sweat and feel warmer. This exercise is far better than walking alone, as it creates a slightly higher air shortage.

If you do experience a slight headache while walking with breath holds, don’t be concerned. This is a good sign and indicates increased CO2 levels. Your headache will soon dissipate and you will feel better.

Patrick Mckeown