Review of The Oxygen Advantage, by Patrick McKeown

The Oxygen Advantage

The Simple, Scientifically Proven Breathing Techniques for a Healthier, Slimmer, Faster, and Fitter You

by Patrick McKeown

William Morrow, 2015. 352 pages.
Review written August 21, 2020, from a library book

This book took me a long time to read. The author rambles and digresses. But a lot of those digressions are stories of lives who were changed because of these ideas. More are about the science behind the ideas.

The basic theme here is that people get into trouble from overbreathing. That deep breath they tell you to take to relax? The sighs you use to let off steam? Not a good idea.

This book made me wish I were still communicating with my ex-husband, a tuba player. He did some research on hyperventilation syndrome (which can happen to tuba players), and this book bears that out – and gives exercises to counteract it.

This author claims he can cure asthma and increase sports performance. For me, just dabbling in the exercises has cleared up what used to be an always stuffy nose.

An interesting and counterintuitive chapter at the beginning explains that we need to increase our tolerance for carbon dioxide in our blood. I won’t copy the long explanation, but here’s a bit of it:

Think of it this way: CO2 is the doorway that lets oxygen reach our muscles. If the door is only partially open, only some of the oxygen at our disposal passes through, and we find ourselves gasping during exercise, often with our limbs cramping. If, on the other hand, the door is wide open, oxygen flows through the doorway and we can sustain physical activity longer and at a higher intensity. But to understand how our breathing works we must dig a bit deeper into the crucial role carbon dioxide plays in making it as efficient as possible.

The book also talks about the importance of breathing through your nose and not your mouth and the benefits that brings. I’m glad I sleep alone – because I’ve been trying his suggestion of taping my mouth closed at night. I haven’t noticed a dramatic difference when I wake up, but it is true that combined with the breath-holding exercises from the book, I’ve got a lot less nasal stuffiness than before.

I’m not an athlete, so I’m not going to try the exercises that simulate high-altitude training. But I would like the health benefits. He’s got a simple Body Oxygen Level Test (BOLT) score you can use to measure your progress on this. If all he says is true, a higher BOLT score will help your overall physical health.

If any of this sounds at all helpful, the book is worth taking a look! The exercises are not difficult, and if the author is right, they can make a big difference.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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