Breathing through the masks is not so pleasant, but by now we are used to it: we must protect ourselves from covid and prevent the spread of the coronavirus and its variants. On the other hand, we certainly cannot help but breathe: through breathing we can in fact enter the lungs with the oxygen necessary to make the rest of the body and the brain work, above all. Here are ten scientific curiosities about this fascinating life mechanism.
1 – knowing how to breathe. One of the peculiarities of breathing is that, although it is an autonomous process, carried out spontaneously even in moments of unconsciousness, such as when we sleep, it is at the same time a mechanism that can be voluntarily modulated. Furthermore, we can change the way we breathe not only momentarily, but also in the long run, by learning new habits through numerous practices, typical of yoga for example.
2 – Breath in numbers. Under normal conditions, adults breathe 12 to 20 times a minute and a whopping twenty thousand times a day. This means that on average we can inhale and exhale about 8 liters of air per minute and 11,520 liters of air per day. Of this, however, only about 21% contains oxygen, while the remaining 78% is nitrogen and 1% argon.
3 – In the air, out of the water. If our breathing allows us to inhale oxygen from the air, we expel a lot of water as we exhale. According to calculations by the Polish Pneumonology and Allergology journal, at rest, humans exhale up to 17.5 milliliters per hour, an amount that increases about four times when physical exertion is made.
4 – Women and men. According to the scientific journal FASEB Journal, women find it harder to breathe than men when exerting intense physical exertion. The reason? The smaller size of the airways, which increases the work of the muscles of the respiratory system. This particularity in the future could help us to investigate the diversity with which some lung diseases occur between the sexes.
5 – Better with the nose. Nasal breathing is preferable to that with the mouth, because it allows you to “filter” the inhaled air, purifying it. And according to a study published in the Brazilian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology, oral breathing can even modify the growth of the face and cause morphological changes throughout the body.
6 – Lungs: very long sponges. The air we inhale is further filtered by the lungs, which play a vital role in breathing. Besides being formidable “sponges”, the lungs are very large: to get an idea, their internal surface, extended, would occupy an area equal to that of a tennis court (about 80 square meters).
7 – Barometer of emotions. How we breathe is closely related to our mood, especially when we quickly switch from one emotion to another due to stress. For this, specific breathing exercises can help us manage emotions such as anger and fear, improving not only our mood, but also our health.
8 – Against anxiety and stress. Disciplines such as yoga, which focus on breathing, can help us fight depression. To prove this, a study by the University of Pennsylvania, which measured the effects of yoga on 25 patients with major depressive disorder, noting benefits equal to or greater than those deriving from the use of antidepressant drugs.
9 – Less hunger. According to a study published in 2017 in Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, taking longer breaths could help reduce appetite. In fact, some slow breathing techniques have proven to be very effective in counteracting food cravings, helping those who are on a diet.
10 – more sleep. Proper breathing is also a cure-all for better sleep. According to a study published in 2020 in the journal Nature and carried out on young adults without sleep disorders, slowing our breathing before falling asleep can make us enjoy a deeper rest and increase the quality of our sleep.
9 things you (maybe) don’t know about air