Deep Breathing And Obesity
( Originally Published 1929 )
FAT people are usually shallow breathers. This may be due in part to the encumbrance which fat imposes on the respiratory organs. It may be merely respiratory laziness.
Not enough attention has been given to the subject of correct breathing in the treatment of disease. I have seen extraordinary transformations of structure and function result from a breathing regimen faithfully followed. Often we see the health of frail young anemic girls improve as the result of singing lessons. The Japanese appreciate the merits of deep breathing more perhaps than other races and they are noted for their physical fitness.
Shallow chest breathing, as for example, the "heaving bosom" of prose and poetry, is characteristic of the breathing of women whose diaphragm is partly immobilized by a tight-fitting corset or dress. Men are more prone to breathe deeply than women. This may be an added reason why obesity is more common among women than men.
As an adjunct to a weight-reducing regimen, I consider that deep or diaphragmatic breathing has considerable merit. The greater the amount of oxygen supplied to the tissues, the greater will be the oxidation of tissue and poisons. The voluntary excursions of the diaphragm tend to massage mechanically the liver and visceral organs, which aids secretory and eliminative activity. I have some as yet unpublished clinical evidence that thyroid activity may be enhanced by diaphragmatic breathing. Therefore I encourage the practice, particularly in those obese patients who show signs of toxemia and impaired thyroid function.
The technique of deep breathing is easy to learn. Herewith are two methods:
Method I. Lie flat on the back. Place a book on the abdomen. While forcibly exhaling raise the book up by pushing down with the abdominal muscles. On inhaling, raise the chest allowing the book to lower. Continue this exercise to the point of slight dizziness which results normally from deep breathing because the carbon dioxide stimulates the respiratory center in the brain. After a little practice this same effect can be produced in an upright position without using a weight on the abdomen.
Method II. (The Shakespearian, as used by an English vocal instructor not the great poet.) This method is to imitate the breathing of a dog when overheated. By panting you move the diaphragm rapidly up and down which greatly increases the amount of oxygen reaching the blood.
Either of the above methods should be followed faithfully for two- or three-minute intervals several times a day. It is naturally advantageous to do the exercises in the fresh air near an open window.