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Better Breathing

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What do Extreme
Fighting Championship fighters, Kaizer Chiefs soccer players and some runners
have in common? They are all using hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to enhance
their performance! This is a non-invasive medical treatment whereby a patient breathes
in 100% medical oxygen in a pressurised chamber, to enhance the body’s healing
power and speed thanks to the higher oxygen concentration in the body.

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Gregory
Windrum, a hyperbaric technologist at the Hyperbaric Oxygen Centre in Johannesburg, explains
that “We only breathe in 20% oxygen from the atmosphere. When we intake
pressurised oxygen in the chamber, it nourishes the cells, and the more oxygen
you get the longer your muscles take to fatigue.” Also, oxygen is essential to all
athletic activities, because it facilitates the production of glycogen, one of
the main sources of muscle energy.

 

Tony
Paladin, chairmperson of the Gauteng Biokinetics Association, also feels that
it’s a must for swift recovery. “Bearing in mind that the body is made up of
cells that require oxygen to metabolise, increasing oxygen flow to them boosts
their ability to do their job. If each cell can operate faster, this would mean
that the entire body will heal more quickly!” Gregory adds that it is easy for
runners to injure themselves shortly after a hard race, as many get back into
training before they reach full recovery. “HBOT saturates the blood plasma and
haemoglobin with oxygen. The red blood cells become more malleable as well,
increasing their ability to penetrate restricted blood vessels,” he explains.

 

BREATHE IN THE BENEFITS

The list of
benefits and after-effects of HBOT for an athlete make for impressive reading
(and that’s not even listing the ways it can help with recovery from various
injuries, illnesses and medical procedures):

?      
Increased
lung capacity, which means your body can perform at a better, faster rate, with
increased endurance.

?      
Gets
the lactic acid moving in the body, which speeds up post-run recovery and
decreases stiffness quicker.

?       Increased oxygen delivery to the
brain facilitates brain function and enhances an athlete’s ability to make the
split-second decisions needed in top-level sport.

?       Decreased swelling and inflammation.

?       Helps the body clear toxins.

 

For many athletes, oxygen therapy
has helped cut injury recovery time and helped improve stamina. Gregory
explains the feeling of being inside the chamber as very relaxing. “It’s pretty
much the same feeling as scuba diving, just minus the water, and it gives you
vast amounts of energy. The great thing is that patients can relax inside the
chamber. You can listen to music, watch movies or even catch up on your work.”

 

While athletes might get excited at
this breakthrough in recovery methods, Tony explains that it should never be a
substitute for training. “I definitely recommend this to any athlete, but as
long as it is seen as an adjunct to and not a replacement for training! The
bottom line is that if you want to be able to mix it up with the best at what
you do, you need to train for it as hard as you can for 10 000 hours – around
10 years at around three hours a day. Hyperbarics allow you to recover a bit
quicker, so you can train more!”

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