Exercise Skills: Patrick McKeown shows you how to improve your health and athletic performance by breathing through your nose


Our bodies breathe automatically, it’s like music that’s playing in the background. This raises the question: why should we pay attention to our breathing, if our bodies do it automatically? Also, how much can you affect it, so that your body will start to follow the new instructions? These are some of the questions that popped into my mind. After reading this book, you will:

  • Know how breathing works: the mechanics of oxygen and CO2
  • Know if you should breathe through your nose or mouth
  • Know how to breathe more effectively

If you know how to breathe…the right way, you will see improvements in your health, mood, and athletic performance.

Something Specific I really liked

Probably the biggest misconception about breathing: breathing in large amounts of air increases the amount of oxygen in the body. But in reality, it’s the other way around: CO2 is helping oxygen to reach your muscles, gasping for air makes you discard the useful CO2, achieving the opposite effect. How does CO2 help oxygen to reach your tissues and cells? In short, hemoglobin (a protein found in red blood-cells) holds onto oxygen, transporting it where needed, and in the presence of carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen. This means that your body wants oxygen to be released in tissues where there’s a lot of CO2. If you start over-breathing, you’re bringing in more oxygen than needed. Your body responds by lowering the blood circulation (it’s trying to stop you), which is explaining the feeling of dizziness and lightheadedness, due to the lack of blood flow to the brain. To get a more in depth and visual overview, check out this video by CrashCourse:

Another thing I really liked

You are probably thinking that it doesn’t matter which hole you breathe through.  But in reality, the effects can be as different as beer and whiskey. For example, mouth breathing is synonymous with emergency, activating the same fight-or-flight response that our ancestors experienced. From the perspective of breathing physiology, mouth breathing activates use of the upper chest, while nasal breathing results in abdominal breathing. Here are more ways how mouth breathing is affecting your body:

  • Mouth-breathing children are at greater risk of developing forward head posture and reduced respiratory strength.
  • Breathing through the mouth contributes to general dehydration (mouth breathing during sleep results in waking up with a dry mouth).
  • A dry mouth also increases the acidification of the mouth and results in more dental cavities and gum disease.
  • Mouth breathing causes bad breath due to alerted bacterial flora.
  • Breathing through the mouth has proved to significantly increase the number of occurrences of snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea.

Now compare mouth breathing with the benefits of nose breathing:

  • Nose breathing imposes approximately 50 per cent more resistance to air stream in normal individuals than does mouth breathing, resulting in 10 to 20 per cent more O2 uptake. (Resistance means less overbreathing.)
  • Nasal breathing warms and humidifies incoming air. (Air entering the nose at 6C/42.9F will be warmed to 30C/86F by the time it touches the back of the throat, and a cosy 37C/98.6F upon reaching its final destination – the lungs.)
  • Nasal breathing removes significant amount of germs and bacteria from the air you breathe in.
  • Nasal Breathing during physical exercise allows for a work intensity great enough to produce an aerobic training effect as based on heart rate and percentage of VO2 max.

Breathing affects your jaw and teeth! Here’s a fantastic video illustrating this:

Another thing I really liked

Breathing more effectively allows us to achieve maximum potential in sporting performance and everyday life. Your effectiveness depends on two elements: the number of breaths you take, and the amount of air you draw into our lungs. Surprisingly, you can catch two doves with one net; if you’re focusing on the amount of air you’re taking in, then the number of breaths part takes care of itself.

Before you can start improving your breathing effectiveness, you have to measure your BOLT (The Body Oxygen Level Test) score, showing your current level of effectiveness. The test has a fancy name, but you can also call it the HYBT (Hold Your Breath Test) score, because you’re measuring your breath hold (it’s important not to take a deep breath before holding it). Graphically it should look something like this:

A low BOLT score is indicating larger breathing volumes and grater number of breaths. To be more precise, there are four levels of breathing effectiveness, according to your BOLT score:


You are breathing loudly, so the person next to you hears you breathing. No natural pause.


You are breathing softly, so that a person standing next to you does not hear you breathing. Natural pause of 1-2 seconds.


You are breathing softly so that you do not hear yourself breathing. Natural pause of 2-3 seconds.


You are breathing softly so that you do not feel yourself breathing. Natural pause of 4-5 seconds.

Graphycally, all the scores look like this:

If you have a terrible BOLT score, the author suggests the following exercises for improving it:

  • Breathing through your nose, day and night.
  • Stop sighing and yawning.
  • Create a small hunger for air, by breathing light and with your diaphragm (during rest and physical exercise)
  • Simulate High-Altitude Training, by holding your breath during fast walking or jogging

PS! If you know the Wim Hof Method, then this link might interest you: A Comparison of The Oxygen Advantage and Wim Hof Techniques

More PS! Out of curiosity, I tried to find an app for CO2 training. After searching the Internet, I found that free-divers are using similar breathing exercises, because using CO2 more effectively is allowing them to stay underwater longer. And, they’ve developed various apps for preparing themselves. The one I chose is called Apnea Trainer, which is allowing me to construct my breathing exercises.