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Digital Subscriptions > Healthy Magazine > September 2018 > WHAT HAPPENS WHEN… I BREATHE?


We do it without even thinking, around 12-15 times a minute, yet plenty of us could benefit from perfecting our technique

What happens when you take a breath?

After the air you inhale passes through the windpipe and bronchioles, it ends up in the millions of tiny sacs called alveoli. Here, gas exchange takes place, so oxygen passes out of the air into the blood, and carbon dioxide passes out of the blood into the alveoli. The carbon dioxide you exhale is a waste product of energy production, and the oxygen you inhaled has been used up by the body.

So far, so natural. Surely people don’t mess it up?

‘Plenty of people are poor breathers,’ says Dr Richard Russell, a consultant respiratory physician at Lymington Hospital, Hampshire, and honorary senior lecturer at Imperial College, London. ‘Lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise, excessive talking, smoking and stress can all influence how well we breathe.’ Taking more exercise helps our muscles to become more efficient at storing oxygen, and limiting our exposure to pollution can help, too. While doing housework, use natural cleaning products and open windows to help with ventilation. Download the CleanSpace app to see pollution levels in your area and plan your journeys to avoid it. Walk down quieter streets and on the inside of the pavement to reduce your exposure by as much as a third, plus close vents and windows in your car when stuck in traffic, and wear a mask when cycling. Sometimes, though, you need to actually work at breathing well.

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About Healthy Magazine

How are you feeling today? I’m asking as this September edition is our first-ever dedicated healthy mind issue. With growing awareness of, and discussion around, mental health (one in five of us experiences mental health problems, according to the Government), we wanted to unpack some of the most commonly experienced problems, such as anxiety, depression and stress. The aim: to give you a ‘mental health toolbox’ to help you feel empowered as you navigate the obstacles of modern life, such as feeling at breaking point doing your ‘third shift’ (the first shift being your actual job and the second being chores at home; the third shift is managing your digital life). See our self-care strategies in Your Healthy Mind Protection Plan, p32. ‘For me, it’s definitely a very personal battle against an ongoing buzz of stress – a racing mind and heart in the middle of the night, or when I wake up – that I am just Not Going To Get Everything Done. Somewhere, a ball will be dropped. The only remedy that regularly works for me is exercise – cycling, swimming (my favourite for mindfulness) and, now, as I prepare to take on the Three Peaks Charity Challenge with others in my office (including our writer, Hattie), it’s walking whenever I can. We deep dive into the idea of exercise as prescription on p120. ‘Elsewhere, we’ve gone mad for manuka honey, which is definitely having A Moment. Discover why this wonder stuff is better than ever, p17, and what exactly you can do with it, p108. Editorial director @elliehughesUK PS If you want to know how Hattie and I get on in our mission to climb up (and down) the UK’s three tallest mountains in 24 hours this August, we’ll be keeping you updated on our website, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Delicious and nutritious – now that’s my kind of superfood!’

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