Pumping Oxygen with Arm Aerobics, by Karen Little


Multi-Colored Columbine Flower by Karen Little

The quality and quantity of oxygen we inhale determines our mood, with good levels prompting feelings of energy and joy, and low levels, depression and listlessness.


Oxygen is brought into our blood through breathing. The more intake volume per breath, such as during aerobic exercise, the more oxygen we pump into our bloodstream. Conversely, the more sedate we become, breath becomes shallow and pumping weakens. The longer we sit still, our blood oxygenation level drops and our body loses efficiency.


Aerobic activity pumps additional oxygen into our blood by expanding our lungs to carry more air, which in turn, triggers our heart muscle to pump more oxygen into our system, causing the heart to grow stronger.

When exhaled as carbon dioxide, oxygen cleans our cells by removing waste. Briefly, aerobic activity increases this cleaning process while strengthening our muscles. Our brain, which uses at least 20% of our body's oxygen, also benefits. When oxygen is in poor supply, mood swings, restlessness, depression, and what appears as laziness or low drive levels can occur.

When your oxygen level is well managed, your resting heart rate (such as when you sleep) will be lower than while active, but your blood oxygen level during that period should stay constant at around 95%, if not higher, even if your breathing is slow. If your blood oxygen level drops to 90% or lower, a doctor should be consulted.


To easily measure your heart rate and your blood oxygen saturation, use a Finger Pulse Oximeter, which commonly costs between $15 and $30. Its display provides a report in the form of %SpO2, representing your oxygenation level, and PRbpm, which represents your pulse rate at beats-per-minute.


At least 89% of your blood must carry oxygen, with a level of 95% considered normal. Higher amounts indicate greater efficiency and lower amounts, trouble. A reading of 90% or below definitely requires medical attention.


While standard aerobic exercise such as running, biking, and power swimming promotes increased blood oxygen saturation and muscle strength, frequent short aerobic activities performed several times throughout a day also contribute to better health. I call it "pumping oxygen."


How to Pump Oxygen:

  1. For reference prior to exercising, take a Finger Pulse Oximeter reading while you are very relaxed. (Note: depending on some dark skin tones, readings might not be accurate.)

  2. Pump oxygen for a period of 5 or 10 minutes by lightly marching in a small area, while lifting one arm at a time in rhythm to your movement. When lifted, your elbows must at least reach shoulder level. Inhale and exhale deeply as you move. Move smoothly without rushing. The effort required to lift your arms is enough to increase breathing, even if you are confined to a chair. Note that music can help you keep pace.

  3. During your last minute of exercise, put a thumb or finger into the Oximeter, and turn it on. Within ten seconds, you'll get a reading, but keep watching it for a few minutes more as the reading changes. During that period, your heartrate should slow, while your blood oxygen rate goes up. (If your heartrate does not go down after exercising, consult a doctor!)

For optimum effect, repeat this several times a day. Replication and timing is up to you, but I suggest as often as possible to reverse the effects of sitting.


Strengthening your heart, improving your breathing, and boosting your blood saturation level definitely will improve your mood and overall energy. Oxygen pumping is an easy and efficient way to address issues caused by long periods of sitting.


See the links in this article for more information about arm pumping exercises and oxygen measurement. Consult your doctor, of course, as needed, before undertaking any exercise.


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by Sketch-Views with Karen Little


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