Welcome back to the Oxygen Advantage® community!
Today, we want to address a crucial issue that has gained recent attention— the risks associated with practicing breath hold techniques in and around water. Although hyperventilation followed by breath holding is not part of the Oxygen Advantage® technique, it deserves our attention nonetheless.
According to investigative journalist Scott Carney, fourteen people have died from hyperventilation and breath hold breathing exercises in recent years. This is a worrying number.
The Risk of Underwater Blackout
One critical danger associated with breath holding in water is underwater blackout. This occurs when a person hyperventilates and then holds their breath. During hyperventilation, a significant amount of carbon dioxide is removed from the blood through the lungs. However, carbon dioxide is vital as it serves as the alarm for breathing.
When you eliminate too much carbon dioxide by breathing rapidly and forcefully, you won’t feel the urge to take a breath. Consequently, you can hold your breath for an extended period, causing a drop in blood oxygen saturation to dangerously low levels.
If someone is in the water holding their breath and doesn’t feel the sensation to breathe, there is a high risk that their blood oxygen levels will fall too much, leading to a quick loss of consciousness and potentially drowning. This situation is incredibly dangerous because there are no warning signs.
Safe Breath Hold Exercises on Dry Land
At Oxygen Advantage®, we promote breath hold exercises during rest and physical exercise to gradually improve your tolerance to high carbon dioxide and low oxygen levels. However, it’s crucial to note that our program focuses exclusively on performing breath hold exercises on dry land, where safety can be assured.
We emphasize the importance of understanding the upper limits and safety precautions of breath holding. During breath holding exercises, the goal is for blood oxygen saturation to drop to around 85%. While this level of hypoxia is severe, it is considered safe, comparable to an altitude of approximately 4,000 meters or 13,000 feet.
In recent years, there has been a concerning increase in reported deaths from drowning due to hyperventilation and breath holding in the water. The popularity of breathing techniques has contributed to this rise in fatalities.
Breathe better, live better!
Note: This blog post was written in consultation with Oxygen Advantage® founder Patrick McKeown and references information from The Oxygen Advantage book published in 2015. Its purpose is to highlight the risks associated with practicing breath hold techniques in and around water and stress the importance of only performing breath hold exercises on dry land for personal safety.
At Oxygen Advantage®, our top priority is safety, and we want to emphasize that we strongly disapprove of and discourage the practice of breath holds in water. The recent tragic incident at a luxury Scottish resort serves as a solemn reminder of the dangers associated with this activity.
It’s crucial to note that the breathing technique that led to the tragic drowning incident is not taught or endorsed by Oxygen Advantage®.