Although we think water is necessary for our existence, we can survive for a day without it. The same goes for food, as we can live for 2 days without eating anything; however, when it comes to breathing, each breath is important for existence. It is the very source of our life, and here are some interesting facts about it:
1. Are you a Lefty or a Righty?
Although when we tend to inhale with both nostrils during manual breathing, automatic breathing is either left nostril or right nostril dominant. Our body alternates between nostrils every 20 minutes throughout the day. According to experts, single-nostril breathing stimulates either side of the body, which is essential to create a balance in the nervous system. Moreover, our body tends to breathe from the right nostril if we engage in sports or are involved in a stressful situation, whereas our body relies on the left nostril when we are at ease.
2. How much do you breathe?
According to the Canadian Lung Association, a healthy adult breathes approximately 22,000 times a day. As for the amount of air we inhale, it is 13 pints or about 6 liters each minute. Also, a resting person breathes anywhere from 12 to 16 times in a minute.
3. Size of the lungs
The average weight of the lungs is 1 kilogram. It is not a surprise that the lungs expand exponentially during breathing; however, a healthy pair of adult lungs can hold up to 6,000 ml of air, whereas, it can only hold 250 ml in an infant. The airways within the lungs are approximately 2,400 kilometers long. It is also stated that if the lungs are laid out flat, their surface area will be equivalent to that of a tennis court. Also, the right lung is slightly shorter than the left lung because of the liver underneath it.
4. The Voice
When we think of speaking, singing, or our voice in general, we always think about the throat and vocal cords; however, the lungs play a huge role in speaking. While vocal cords act as an equalizer, the power required to produce a sound is produced by the lungs in the form of air. The force of the air determines the pitch and volume of our speech.
5. Nose is Important
While it is common to start breathing from the mouth after a tough workout, some people, especially children, breathe from their mouths. In addition to it transporting germs within our system, it also carries a risk of changing our facial features. In a research, it was found facial features, particularly soft tissues, were altered in children who breathed through their mouths. Moreover, mouth breathing can lead to misaligned bites, snoring, and sleep apnea.
6. Are you breathing?
On average, a person can hold their breath for 90 seconds; however, many people have made world records by holding their breath for way longer than that. Presently, Budimir Šobat from Croatia holds the world record for voluntarily holding his breath at 24 minutes and 37 seconds. He did so to put his city, Sisak, on the map.
7. It’s not all oxygen
It is a common misconception that we breathe 100% oxygen. Interestingly, our atmosphere is made up of 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen while other gases make up the rest. Therefore, oxygen is not the thing that we breathe, as it is accompanied by other gases. Also, our lungs only convert about 5% of the inhaled oxygen into carbon dioxide.
8. Tiny members
Our lungs are filled with tiny sacs known as alveoli where the oxygen is converted into carbon dioxide. There are about 300 to 600 million alveoli in the lungs, and these are surrounded by capillaries, a network of blood vessels. Moreover, alveoli are lined with tiny droplets of water, as this helps in gas diffusion.
9. Losing water
Losing water via urine and sweating is a common understanding; however, we also lose water during exhalation. Granted, it is only a minuscule amount with each breath, but in a day we can lose up to a cup of water by just breathing. Interestingly, we can lose up to 2 ounces of water by exhalation if engaged in strenuous activity.
10. The Spooky Truth
The lungs are the only organ in the human body that can float on water. This is the reason why dead bodies stay afloat on water. Granted, it is only possible as long as the body is not filled with water.
11. Residual Air
Our body is programmed to retain some amount of air even after exhalation. Despite using excessive force while exhaling, approximately 1 liter of air remains in the lungs. This is known as the residual volume of the air.
12. Emotions and breathing
In addition to sustaining our very life, breathing also regulates our emotions. Depending on our breathing pattern, our emotions are changed. For instance, short-rapid breathing can result in stress and anxiety, whereas mindful deep breathing can have the opposite effect. According to experts, breathing patterns allow the brain to trigger our fight-or-flight responses, therefore, mindful breathing can result in calmness and clarity. This is why meditation is often recommended to people suffering from fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
13. The Yogi Law
According to ascetics and yogis of India, each person is born with a set amount of breath cycles, and once the last breath is exhaled, death is certain. Interestingly, there are records of 200-year-old yogis living in Himalayan caves. They state that if the breathing is slowed down, then one can prolong their life for many decades. Fittingly, breath is called Prana in Sanskrit, which literally means life.
14. The Iceman
Wim Hof, also known as the Iceman, is a Dutch adventurer with many world records to his name. In 2007, he set the world record for the fastest barefoot half marathon on ice with a time of 2 hours and 16 minutes. Another world record that earned him the title of Iceman was his 1-hour and 52-minute long sitting in the bath while being neck-deep in ice. He states that the only thing that allows him to perform such tasks is his breathing technique. Experts agree that breathing can have lasting effects not only on our psychological well-being but also on our physiology as well.