Wellness Wednesday – 5/27/20
WELLNESS AROUND THE WEB
Take a Second, Breathe: How You Can Practice Healthy Breathing Techniques
The air we breathe has taken top priority in our day-to-day lives. What was once a simple, passive action is now at the forefront of people’s minds, thanks to exterior factors like air pollution and COVID-19. But this attention to our breathing may not be all bad, as a recent article at WSJ.com points out.
Before, many of us didn’t take too much time to think about breathing. As WSJ puts it, we misunderstand breathing; we see it as an automatic action, but how we breathe plays an important role in our overall health. The way that we take in air and expel it is just as important as what we eat, how much we exercise and the genes we’ve inherited.
Neurologists, rhinologists and pulmonologist all agree that breathing habits can be directly linked to physical and mental health. Breathing properly can allow for longer and healthier lives. Breathing poorly, by contrast, can spawn and exacerbate a variety of chronic diseases like asthma, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, hypertension and more. Poor breathing habits have even been shown to change the physical structure of our skeletons, depleting essential minerals and weakening our bones.
But practicing poor breathing habits isn’t all our fault. We can blame some of our poor breathing on evolutionary changes in the human skull. Our mouths and sinuses have shrunk, and a smaller mouth and obstructed nose make it harder to breathe. Humans are now in the unfortunate position of being the most plugged-up species in the animal kingdom (although we’re perhaps second to the genetic abominations that are bulldogs and pugs). Combine this with changes in the body due to aging, and humans have an uphill battle to endure, but there’s no reason to get winded during the fight.
What can we do to combat this? Luckily, the best method for combating and even reversing entropy in our lungs is simply practicing proper breathing techniques.
First, try extending breaths to make them a little deeper and a little longer. Inhale gently through your nose to a count of about five and then exhale; repeat this for several minutes.
Practicing this breathing technique can help protect the lungs from irritation and infection while also boosting circulation to the brain and body. Stress on the heart relaxes as well; according to WSJ, the respiratory and nervous systems enter a state of coherence where everything functions at peak efficiency. A few minutes of inhaling and exhaling at this pace can drop blood pressure by 10, even 15 points.
Secondly, focus on breathing through your nose. Nasal breathing not only helps with snoring and cases of sleep apnea, but it can also allow us to absorb around 18% more oxygen than breathing through our mouths. It reduces the risk of dental cavities and respiratory problems and likely boosts sexual performance. The list goes on.
COVID-19 has forced us to reconsider the way we breathe. Luckily, the best methods for promoting healthy lungs is as simple as taking a breath. It costs nothing, and the benefits can be huge.
MassDOT Reevaluates Road Policies
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is reexamining road policies for managing traffic speeds on state roadways, with an emphasis on creating a system that prioritizes human life and safety.
Jacqueline DeWolfe, MassDOT director of sustainable mobility, recently gave an overview of the new system at the meeting of the Massachusetts Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board (MABPAB) on May 20, where she explained that driving speed increases the likelihood and severity of crashes.
“This is particularly critical for people walking and biking, in which case the motor vehicle speed is a significant determinant of whether the person hit will survive,” says DeWolfe.
The state’s current speed limit policies are dictated by the “85th percentile rule” — if traffic engineers measured the speeds of 100 random drivers on a roadway, in ideal weather conditions and no traffic, then the speed of the 15th-fastest driver will determine the posted speed limit. The 85th percentile rule also influences how traffic engineers design roadway projects; this creates a convoluted system in which the “typical” drivers determine road rules and design, even if it isn’t the safest method of transportation.
But a growing body of evidence debunks the 85th percentile rule, causing Mass. and other states to rethink their road policies.
Instead, MassDOT aims to implement road rules based on the state’s Vision Zero principles, which acknowledge that people make mistakes and takes these human errors into consideration.
MassDOT’s speed policy initiative will develop its recommendations over the next year, with an aim of introducing new policies for implementation in 2021.