What’s not to love about oxygen? After all, we depend on it for our very existence. So, it’s somewhat of a surprise, that a recent body hacking trend is all about putting the brakes on this marvellous molecule.
Known as Intermittent Hypoxic Training (IHT), the style of breathing training is not new. Used for many years by Olympic and other athletes and their coaches to improve sports performance, traditionally hypoxic (Hypo – low, Oxy -oxygen) training was in mountain camps set above 2,000m, ensuring lower atmospheric oxygen. Elite athletes would train in high altitudes, then compete at lower altitudes, with significant increase in their endurance, strength and speed.
Sports performance… and much more
In recent times, hypoxic training including the Oxygen Advantage breathing technique, has expanded to much more than sports performance, with studies showing that targeted hypoxic training is good for your health. Improving immunity, increasing antioxidant production, regulation of blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation and increasing tolerance to stress. Conditions found to improve with hypoxic training include asthma, diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety, obesity, sleep apnoea and even helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. *
Low oxygen at home
Luckily (or not) you don’t need to book a trip to Mont Blanc to obtain results from intermittent hypoxic training. Initially it is advisable to learn from professionals such as Oxygen Advantage trainers who are familiar with IHT. Through various techniques, you learn to hold your breath for shorter and longer periods of time to create hypoxia, a temporary reduction in oxygen levels. Oxygen levels are ascertained by an oximeter, a device applied to your fingertip. Breath holding drills can be done during physical exercise or when you are motionless. Hypoxic breathing exercises need to be regulated, and in this case, more is definitely not better. Further benefits are to be derived from frequent excursions into the land of hypoxia.
Oxygen is not moving from its status as numero uno molecule for life any time soon. However, intermittent hypoxic training is trending to become a useful tool for athletes and those wanting to improve their health.
*Certain individuals (including young children, during pregnancy) and certain conditions including epilepsy, Type 1 Diabetes, Atrial Fibrillation and more should not attempt IHT.
Serebrovskaya, T. V. (2002). “Intermittent hypoxia research in the former Soviet Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States: History and review of the concept and selected applications.” High Altitude Medicine and Biology3(2): 205-221.
Photo credit: Miguel Salgado