April 13, 2024
Discover the science behind breath holding and how to safely practice breath-holding exercises in this informative article. It covers the risks and potential benefits of breath-holding, the relationship between stress and breath holding, how age and gender impacts breath holding and much more.


Breath holding is a practice that has received increased attention recently due to its connections to mindfulness and meditation. However, breath holding has been a part of human activity for centuries, whether it’s for fun, competition, or even survival. Breath holding can be a healthy way to manage stress or increase lung capacity, but like any practice, it comes with important considerations. This article will explore the science behind breath holding, how to safely practice breath-holding exercises, and potential risks associated with the practice.

The Science Behind Breath Holding: How Long Should You Aim For?

Breath holding is the ability to withhold breathing for a determined period of time. When we hold our breath, our heart rate and blood pressure increase while carbon dioxide levels in our blood rise. Conversely, oxygen levels in our body decrease. Our body responds to this decrease by triggering urges to breathe. The longer we hold our breath, the more urgent these urges become.

How long a person can hold their breath for differs based on their overall health and level of lung capacity. The average person can hold their breath for approximately 30-90 seconds. However, experienced divers or individuals with a higher level of lung capacity can hold their breath for several minutes.

It’s recommended that beginners start with shorter breath-holding exercises, starting with 10-20 seconds and gradually increasing the time as their lung capacity increases. One should aim to avoid holding their breath until they feel uncomfortable or experience discomfort. There’s also a higher risk of accidents when a person practising breath-holding loses consciousness, which may happen during extended periods of holding their breath.

Training your Lungs: The Benefits of Breath-Holding Exercises

Practising breath holding exercises can offer many health benefits, including:

  • Increased lung capacity and breath control
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Improved focus and concentration
  • Improved oxygen intake and circulation
  • Enhanced athletic performance

To improve your ability to hold your breath, start with simple breathing exercises, such as deep breathing exercises, before gradually increasing the length of your breath-holding intervals. It’s important to be consistent with your practice to improve your lung capacity gradually.

There are many types of breath-holding exercises to explore, including box breathing, yogic breathing, and pranayama breathing. These exercises and techniques are designed to regulate breathing patterns and lengthen the amount of time a person is able to hold their breath.

The Risks of Overdoing It: Understanding the Dangers of Extended Breath Holding

While breath-holding exercises can provide many benefits, it’s important to note the potential risks involved with practising for an extended period of time. The most serious of these risks can be that you lose consciousness. During extended breath-holding periods, oxygen levels in the body decrease and carbon dioxide levels increase leading to feelings of discomfort, light-headedness, and dizziness. These risks are higher when practising breath-holding exercises within swimming environments as it can lead to drowning when a person loses consciousness underwater.

Additionally, certain individuals may be more susceptible to developing breath-holding complications, including people with respiratory problems or heart conditions. If you have any concerns related to your health or safety, it is a good idea to consult with a medical practitioner before beginning any breath-holding exercises.

From Swimmers to Free Divers: How Long Should Each Group Be Able to Hold Their Breath?

Different groups of people have different expectations when it comes to breath-holding, depending on their skill level and practice. Some examples include:

  • Swimmers: Swimmers will be required to hold their breath for short periods, a few seconds, during a race or a training lap. This is vital for them as holding their breath maximises their potential speed and technique when performing the stroke.
  • Free divers: Free divers, whose purpose is to dive deeper into the water may hold their breath for longer periods of time, with some world records standing close to 12 minutes. It requires an overwhelming amount of training to achieve this feat. This type of practice requires outstanding lung capacity strength and overall endurance ability

The Relationship Between Stress and Breath Holding: What You Need to Know

Stress and anxiety can have a significant impact on our ability to control our breathing. While breath holding exercises can help manage stress and anxiety, it’s easy to see how the reverse could contribute negatively to a person’s breathing ability. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed before or during a breath-holding exercise, it’s essential to pause and take slow, deep breaths to regulate your breathing, as forcing the breath can exacerbate anxiety and stress levels.

The Impact of Age and Gender on Breath Holding Ability

A person’s age and gender can impact their ability to hold their breath. The average age has a given extent of effect when it comes to breath-holding. With age, lung capacity tends to decrease, and the elasticity in the chest walls begins to wear hence alteration in breathing capabilities. With regards to gender, men have higher lung capacity and may be able to hold their breath longer than women. Although this will differ on an individual basis, the variation is typically minor.

Breath Holding as a Tool for Meditation and Mindfulness: How It Works and How to Try It Yourself

Breath-holding exercises can serve as a tool for meditation and mindfulness. Breath-holding techniques can help regulate breathing during mindfulness exercises and improve concentration on the present moment.

The most basic breath elapse for this is to inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and then exhale slowly for eight seconds. When holding one’s breath in mindfulness practice, it is recommended that one should avoid any changes in body position or physical movements to maintain focus and prevent interruption in the breathing pattern.


Breath holding is an ancient practice that has a modern relevance to our world today. It is recommended that we hold our breath for between 30-90 seconds, while starting with just 10-20 seconds, and slowly increase the length of the practice. The practice of breath-holding offers a range of benefits, including improved lung capacity, reduced stress and anxiety, and enhanced concentration. As with any exercise program, it’s important that individuals consider their own safety and consult with a trusted medical professional if necessary. If you’re seeking to improve your overall well-being through breath control exercises, incorporating breath-holding practices can be a healthy and fun way to get started.

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