the exclamation “Take a breath. Take a breath!”, when a state of exaltation or stress is suffered, it is completely valid, since the organism has run out of the necessary oxygen so that the neurons and the brain can function properly. Just as at this moment, at all times, the breath is life that flows throughout the body.
With more reason the oriental thousand-year-old maxim says that, “Whoever breathes half, lives half, “ because a good breath equals a healthy life. On the contrary, bad breath increases the risk of cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks, stress and its associated problems, and even being overweight.
It is estimated that three out of five people do not breathe properly. “We live so fast that we don’t even have time to breathe, and we forget that thanks to breathing we livesays the doctor Maribel Esguerraoccupational physician, Medical Center.
According to the doctor, we are little or not at all aware of our breathing and the ideal is to practice breathing consciously whenever possible, as if it were an active pause. Very simple breathing exercises allow a higher level of oxygenation to the whole body, especially the brain, heart and muscles, which need more oxygen.
Dr. Esguerra explains that the degree of oxygenation has a lot to do with our ability to understand, think, react, and above all, with the management of our thoughts and the response to emotional situations.
The doctor graphically explains how people breathe halfway, because they use only the upper part of their chest and even when asked to take a deep breath. “They just raise the shoulders and lose a large part of their lung capacity by distending the abdomen”, he points out.
We don’t breathe well asserts Dr. Esguerra and emphasizes: – Not even when we do physical activity, because we are submerged in worries about what comes next and we stop breathing, we make “small apneas” that lose the benefits of exercise and affect our organs “, says the specialist.
Apneas are small involuntary pauses that breathing makes and leaves, for that moment, without sending oxygen to the body. When we do not breathe properly for a more or less long time, we “sigh” in order to compensate for the oxygen deficiency.
According to Dr. Esguerra, the human body is perfect, but there is a detail that is not taken into account and that is our mind. Because we concentrate on thinking about studying, at work, about daily commitments, about our problems of any kind, then what happens is a “disconnection”. We stop breathing properly and the bigger that disconnection is, we begin to have periods of prolonged apnea or very shallow breathing during the day.
“We demand our eyes to see properly, our body to move, our brain to think and we do not realize that all these are made up of millions of cells that require oxygen in high amounts to function well,” says the occupational physician.
The neurons are the most affected by the lack of oxygen, by bad breathing and they are the ones that need oxygen the most. Oxygen is the “fuel” of cells, especially neurons.
“Cells have an organelle called mitochondria, which takes this oxygen and converts it into adenosine triphosphate, ATP, considered by biologists as the energy currency for life, which keeps us active, productive and without fatigue.”, says Dr. Esguerra.
So, for the doctor, if we eat well, if we acquire good nutrients in our diet, if we do conscious breathing, exercising properly, freeing our mind from thinking and letting it rest, we will promote a healthy life and ward off diseases.
“Let’s remember that exercising makes the heart pump more blood throughout our body and if we do it while breathing consciously, oxygen will reach our entire body. It is part of our healthy habits”, he adds.
Also, he recommends, taking active breaks, between work days, that include stretching and at least five deep breaths, which will allow energy to be conserved in our body, anxiety and stress to decrease, and each organ to function in harmony.
According to Dr. Esguerra, healthy habits are those conducts and behaviors that we have assumed as our own and that directly affect our physical, mental and social well-being. (See box: “Healthy Practices”)
“Having more energy, effectively processing stress, being more focused, taking fewer sick days automatically make us more productive. These are just some of the benefits of healthy practices that help improve our performance”, says the occupational physician, from Medical Center.
The promotion of practices and resources that benefit the health of those who work is also one of the requirements requested by the World Health Organization (WHO) to consider the company as a healthy work environment.
There are countless initiatives that can be considered as promoting healthy habits at work. The following four are just a sample of them, although they occupy a relevant place insofar as it has been proven that they really bring benefits to the physical and mental health of those who practice them.
The lack of exercise is considered as one of the practices contrary to health as a scourge in the world. About 60% of the population does not perform the minimum amount of physical activity. “This is one of the main causes for the skyrocketing percentage of people suffering from obesity and, in turn, coronary diseases,” says the specialist.
A sedentary lifestyle is a direct consequence of the way in which modern life has developed in big cities and the workplace is highly responsible: many jobs require their employees to carry out their tasks while sitting down and without moving.
“It is already a complex problem and there are very few companies that promote physical exercise and active breaks among their employees, to counteract the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle, but instead incorporate an important habit for health,” says the specialist.
According to Dr. Esguerra, she highlights that one of the most effective healthy habits, scientifically proven, is meditation, to combat the stress of accumulated hours of work.
It is a simple method capable of combating depression, fear and anger and raising the levels of satisfaction and happiness.
A study carried out in the United Kingdom found that thirty minutes of meditation a day for three months was enough for a group of employees to lower their anxiety level. “This is one of the most innovative resources within healthy habits at work,” says Dr. Esguerra.
“Both in meditation and in exercise – says the specialist – we managed to become aware of breathing, breathing is an involuntary bodily function and in turn can be voluntary.”
According to the doctor, breathing is managed in the unconscious, mediated in our organism by the autonomic nervous system, but at any moment we can take control and consciously change the way we breathe.
If we make a conscious habit of breathing, we can make our breathing shallow or deep, fast or slow, since we are breathing all the time.
“The special thing about this double control system is that we can change the way we breathe, and see how breathing influences our body,” emphasizes the occupational physician.
The specialist indicates that controlled breathing, also known as “rhythmic breathing”, “diaphragmatic breathing” and “deep breathing”, has long been a feature of Eastern health practices.
There are thousands of articles on the benefits of a good diet for health and they encourage companies to include healthy alternatives in their menus, as is already the case in many of them.
“Respecting the schedules and times of lunch breaks, eating quietly and away from the desk, not only allows for better digestion, but also gives the worker the chance to rest from their tasks and lower their stress level,” he asserts. Dr. Esguerra.
Respecting all meals and in a balanced way, added to adequate rest, is key to conserving energy throughout the day. In addition, the development of diseases such as obesity and diabetes is avoided.