We have heard it all before about how important hydration is to so many aspects of life; health, body composition, performance, concentration. But for some reason it always seems to get neglected. Humans can survive weeks without food but cannot normally go without fluids for more than a few days.

The overall weight of the human body will be on average around 60% water (age & gender dependant). Yet we still underestimate the importance of hydration. In some ways it’s a similar scenario to sleep and recovery. We’ve all heard the dangers of a lack of sleep, yet we still stay up binge watching Netflix.

The purpose of this blog isn’t to scare people into glugging down 8 litres of water a day. It is to understand the basics of the importance of hydration on fat loss, general health and our brains abilities, and understand how we can make some quick improvements.

Water plays a vital role in a number of essential bodily functions. It is present in the process of most chemical reactions in the body, swallowing, lubricating joints, regulating body temperature, hormonal balance, helping the nervous system function and getting rid of waste products. And of course, we have all had a horrible headache before, then once we have some water it disappears.

If Adam Sandler has taught us anything from his movies, it’s the importance of high-quality H2O!


Sounds like a silly question. “Well it’s water, isn’t it?!”.

The main component in maintaining hydration levels is of course water. Water or fluid is also the craving we get when we are thirsty. But there are other components involved in maintaining a healthy hydration status. For example, we get on average around 20% of our fluid intake through food (depending on what food we eat). Many of the nutrients in our intake also have a significant effect on hydration status.

The main components involved are salt (sodium chloride and bicarbonate), potassium, magnesium and calcium. These solutes are what determine our osmolality, which is essentially the concentrations of these solutes in our intracellular and extracellular fluid.

Intracellular fluids are the fluids found inside our body’s cells, extracellular are the fluids found outside our body’s cells. We won’t get too into this detail, but the concentration levels of the solutes mentioned, or osmolality, is also a very important part of our hydration status. Too much or too little of them can also lead to dehydration of some kind.

Therefore, hydration isn’t just about drinking lots of water, it’s also about getting the appropriate amount of these nutrients. This has a vital role to play in the function of the skeletal system, and the moving of fluids and nutrients into and out of cells.


The human body is defined as mildly dehydrated when there is 1% or greater loss of body mass due to fluid loss. Therefore, for a 90kg person, they would be considered dehydrated if they lost 0.9kg of body weight, during exercise for example.

This may sound like quite a lot, particularly if you were trying to lose 0.9kg of fat! But research has shown that the human body can lose this 1% of mass after just 13 hours of consuming no fluids. Research has also shown that we can lose up to 2% in just 24 hours. I imagine at one point or another we have got to the end of the day and realised we have barely eaten and not even had a drink.

That 2% body mass loss from lack of fluids can have some pretty negative effects. Headaches and symptoms of fatigue begin, cognitive function is impaired, so we struggle to perform day to day tasks and concentrate on work. Physical performance begins to reduce too, which we will discuss further.

The long-term consequences of chronic dehydration have also been researched. Maintaining good hydration levels has been shown to reduce the incidence of kidney stones, coronary heart disease, asthma and hypertension. Although more research is required on the long-term effects of dehydration, particularly on certain cancers. It can also be tough to measure long term fluid intake, but the warning signs are there.


The biggest effect we see from lack of hydration is in physical performance. The 2% drop in body mass we discussed earlier has been shown to reduce endurance performance, increase fatigue, decrease motivation and an increased perceived effort. On top of this, during exercise, just drinking when you are thirsty is not enough to stay adequately hydrated. That is why it is important to keep sipping away at fluids throughout the day prior to exercise, but also continue to drink during intense exercise, regardless of whether you feel thirsty or not. This is most relevant when it comes to training in warmer climates of course, and environments where we lose more fluids through sweat and heavy breathing.

Our cognitive performance is also compromised through dehydration. This is possibly the area that affects our day to day living most. Mild dehydration (2-3% loss) can disrupt our mood, decrease concentration, alertness and short-term memory function, particularly in the young and elderly.


As previously mentioned, fluid has a vital role to play in many bodily functions. Did you know that having low fluid levels can even increase your chance of constipation? It is a common treatment to be recommended to those suffering. However, increasing fluid levels only helps this scenario if you are dehydrated.

There is a broad association between chronic dehydration and an increased level of the hormone angiotensin II. An increase of this hormone is linked to many chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Our kidney function also becomes impaired through lack of hydration. The kidney is a key component in removing waste from the body, and regulates the bodies water balance. Adequate fluid is vital for the kidney to perform its task of filtering waste from the bloodstream and excreting it from the body.

Next up, the heart. The way in which the heart may be affected by dehydration is through a decrease in blood volume. Blood volume may be lowered by a loss of body water, normally seen through exercise or lack of fluid ingestion. This, along with moving from laying down to upright, can lead to an increased heart rate and a drop in blood pressure. Fluid intake can help to alleviate this pretty quickly.

Dehydration can also have an effect on our mental health too. The main mechanism for this is the direct link to the stress hormone (cortisol), where it has been shown that even mild dehydration can increase levels in the body. The indirect repercussions of this can be just as harmful, however. This increased feeling of stress can lead to making poor decisions when it comes to nutrition, lower our motivation to exercise and eat well, and make us feel more tired in general.


This is something we regularly stress to clients when they start working with GWD Performance, and it is possibly the point that gets met with the most scepticism. How can consuming more water help with fat loss?

A 2014 study was conducted on overweight females. The participants were instructed to continue their food and fluid intake as normal, but to drink an extra 1.5L of water per day; 0.5L 30 minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Despite the increase in fluid intake, at the end of the 8-week study on average there was a significant reduction in body mass, body fat percentages, BMI, and there was also a reported suppression of appetite.

Another 2003 study looked at the effect of having water with a meal compared to various different beverages, including milk, juice and sugar sweetened beverages. Having the various beverages increased total energy intake by anything between 5 and 25% compared to having just water.

There are other mechanisms by which staying hydrated can help with fat loss and body composition levels. The study discussed above showed that consuming more water prior to eating can help to suppress appetite and help prevent overeating.

For someone that tends to consume calories from fluids (fizzy drinks, juice etc.), consuming more water can prevent you from doing just that. The more water you consume, the less thirst you will feel for these calorific drinks, and therefore can naturally reduce daily calorie intake, all by just making a slight change to a habit.

As discussed previously, our kidneys are vital to us removing waste from the body. Adequate hydration is very important in keeping our kidneys working effectively. The simple process of urinating is a removal of waste, and of course water intake has a huge role to play in that, too. This, combined with all of the general health benefits of staying hydrated, are going to keep the body optimal for exercise and energy levels. The more we feel motivated and energetic, the more we are going to want to train and stay active. That raised activity level can help to create a more effective energy balance for fat loss.

The healthier you are, the more your body and mind is prepared to stay active, positive and motivated.


This is a tough one because every persons fluid intake will be unique to them. But there have been a few changes to recommendations over the years, mainly due to poor guidelines previously.

US guidelines, for example, were based on the average amount of fluid intake of the population and did not take into account whether that population were dehydrated or not! We always say as a general rule of thumb, on an average day, females should consume at least 2.5L of water per day and males at least 3L per day.

If we take weight into it, I would recommend consuming 20ml per pound of body weight. So therefore, if you weigh 150lb (around 68kg), then you should be drinking 20mlx150, which equals 3L per day. This may work out a little more than our general numbers above but is a little more accurate based on a persons weight.

However, there are so many factors involved in hydration levels. Activity levels can be a factor, how much we sweat, air and body temperature, what type of foods are consumed, the list goes on.

With all the technology out there these days, the best way to self-measure hydration levels is the good old-fashioned way; urine colour! You can get colour charts to do a daily check to make sure you are hydrated, it’s not the prettiest way but it’s great instant feedback to make changes quickly if you need to.


  1. Always have a water bottle with you. It’s so easy to not drink when you don’t have one available all the time.
  2. Try the water bottles with time markers on. They may look a bit gimmicky, but it gives you a target to aim for all the time.
  3. Keep chipping away at your daily target. Don’t rely on glugging down 1L at a time, keep sipping throughout the day.
  4. Start your day with a glass of water and get ahead of your target from the off. Sip down 500ml when you wake up, it may also help to wake you up (especially if it’s cold).
  5. Have a glass of water 30 minutes before your main meals, it may help to suppress appetite.
  6. If you’re exercising, take that into account and try to get more fluids in BEFORE you exercise, rather than trying to play catch-up after.
  7. Add some flavour. Squeeze a citrus fruit into your bottle or add some berries to add a bit of taste. Even a little bit of squash is fine if it means you drink more.
  8. Don’t forget your electrolytes. We mentioned it in the blog, these are vital to keeping hydrated too.
  9. Keep checking your urine! If it ain’t clear, it ain’t right.
  10. Caffeinated drinks and alcoholic drinks can have a slight diuretic effect. If you’re drinking them, make sure you have a glass of water along with them.
  11. Try and drink most of your fluids before the evening. Nobody wants to be getting out of bed 5 times a night!











Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. It has been nicknamed that because the main source of it is sunlight. It’s synthesised in the skin in the response to exposure to UVB rays. It is also found in foods, but on a lesser scale. It is prominent in fatty fish, eggs, cod liver oil, and is also in a lot more items such as milk when the product is fortified.

Vitamin D has been in the news a lot recently. A few recent studies have shown a significant correlation between vitamin D deficiency in Covid-19 mortalities. Some news story headlines I’ve seen;

“Could Vitamin D be the key to beating coronavirus?”

“Covid-19 deaths linked to Vitamin D deficiency”

Headlines that really catch your eye! However, I certainly hope people read more into it, because by reading those headlines, some people may think a vitamin D tablet is the vaccine we all desire. As we have said all along in this crazy situation, please make sure you do your own research and never just trust a headline to give you all the information you need.

Vitamin D is without doubt a vital nutrient for our general health, and the number of people understood to have below recommended vitamin D levels worldwide is staggering. It is estimated that 30-50% of some countries have lower than normal Vitamin D levels. Interestingly, although the sun is a vital source of it, many countries with hotter climates tend to have an even higher deficiency rate. Researchers in Qatar found that 68.8% of children were deficient in Vitamin D despite the hot climate!

The role of vitamin D in keeping us healthy is nothing new. Previous research has shown that sufficient levels play a big role against fighting respiratory tract infections, such as “flu”. In fact, researchers have gone as far to say that it is one of the reasons these types of viral infections are so seasonal. Due to the lack of sunlight in the winter, vitamin D levels are naturally lower, and they have hypothesised that as being one of the reasons the flu is so much more prominent in the winter. Along with other reasons of course.

The mainstream information on vitamin D is around our skeletal system, however. Supplements are commonly marketed as a nutrient that will give you stronger bones, muscles and teeth. Which is of course true, and one of the many reasons we would always tell our clients how important it is to get enough of it. But let’s take a look at the other reasons why we recommend it. Vitamin D deficiencies have been shown time and time again to have a negative impact on the illnesses and conditions that make people more vulnerable to Covid-19.


The Ageing Population:

Vitamin D status has been shown to reduce significantly with age, particularly in the over 70 population. In Italy, women over 70 were shown to have 35% lower Vitamin D levels than women under 70. The most logical reason for this being that the older population tend to avoid direct sunlight as much as possible, whereas the younger population are more likely to spend a significant amount of time in the sun. It has also been found that around 75% of the institutionalised over 70’s are vitamin D deficient.

Obesity & Type II Diabetes:

I have paired these two together as they are so closely related, with an estimated 85% of people with type II diabetes also being overweight or obese. A recent study on hospitalised Covid-19 patients in New York (therefore were treated as severe cases) found that 41.7% of patients admitted were clinically obese. It was shown as one of the strongest predictors in hospitalisation, behind age (65 years+) and hypertension. Of the hospitalised patients, 33.8% also had type II diabetes. So, there is no more hiding from it, more and more evidence is being produced to show the obese population and those with type II diabetes to be more at risk during this pandemic.

Vitamin D status has long been shown to be related to obesity. Many studies over the years have shown a relationship between low vitamin D levels and high body fat levels regardless of age, ethnicity or geographical area.

The role of vitamin D in type II diabetes is also strong. One study showed that people with higher vitamin D levels were less at risk of type II diabetes by 40%, compared to people with below recommended levels.


Let’s start with the main study that has been making the headlines. A study in Indonesia researched the results of 780 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases. The table below shows the results from the study. Column 1 is Covid-19 cases with vitamin D deficiency, column 2 is cases with an insufficiency, and column 3 is cases sufficient in vitamin D.

Of those cases that were deficient in vitamin D, a whole 98.9% died. The cases that were insufficient, 87.8% died. And the cases that had adequate vitamin D levels, just 4.1% died. Quite astounding numbers, you can see why it has hit the headlines.

In another study, they looked at the number of cases and deaths per country. They then compared that number to the average populations vitamin D levels. As you can see from the graph below, there is an obvious relationship between the populations vitamin D levels and both the number of cases and most importantly, the mortality rate. The trend being, the lower the average vitamin D levels, the higher probability of both covid-19 cases and deaths. Of course there are a few outliers, probably based on how they have controlled the situation, such as Germany.

Below is a table from the same study, showing a breakdown of each European countries results, based on average vitamin D levels, and the number of cases and deaths confirmed (as of April 2020). Interestingly, look at the vitamin D levels of the Southern European countries with hotter climates, such as Spain and Italy.

When I first heard there may be a link between low vitamin D levels and death rate, my first thought was, “well surely that’s not the case, as Spain and Italy are the worst hit and their vitamin D levels should be high”. Their levels are among the lowest 25% in Europe! Now the main reason that is believed for this I mentioned earlier with the elderly population. It is more than likely because the hotter the climate is, the more likely the population is to avoid exposure to the sun. Skin pigmentation has also been shown to reduce the capability of the skin to absorb vitamin D from the UV rays. Pair this with their populations being slightly older on average, particularly Italy, and it could explain why their vitamin D levels are much lower than you would expect.


Here is my view on it and why I put in the title to not treat it as a magic pill. I have already seen reports of people taking this information as “all I need to do is take a vitamin D pill a day and I’ll be alright”.

The question I have for everyone is this; do you think it is probable that one vitamin, that potentially half of the world has insufficient levels of, can be the main reason for the 98.9% of deaths in the above study? Possible, maybe, but probable?

I am not downplaying the role that vitamin D has to play on our overall health. There are huge benefits to having sufficient levels of it, and it is one of the few supplements that I feel there is genuinely no reason to not be taking it. I will explain this a little more in our recommendations.

So the chicken or the egg scenario is this; is the increased chance of death due to low vitamin D levels, or is it because of the comorbidities (the ones discussed earlier in the blog) that are associated with low vitamin D levels, that increase the risk?

One of the trends we see with people with low vitamin D levels is a sedentary lifestyle. Two of the reasons given for low vitamin D levels in obese individuals is lower activity levels and less likely to be exposed to sunlight for a significant period. Excess fat storage has also been shown to lower the availability of vitamin D in the body, even when supplementing to increase intake. 

So for me, that individual taking a tablet a day to boost their levels isn’t going to be enough to help protect them. It may help, but more is required. It is our lifestyles that need to change if we are to reduce our risk.


As I said previously, vitamin D supplementation is a great, or even a necessary, option. The UK in the winter as you know can be very bleak, it can be days before we see any sunshine. This means our vitamin D intake is going to be much lower during this time. Therefore, the need for supplementation becomes greater.

UVB rays account for 90% of our vitamin D intake, so if we are not getting out in the sun, then we must ensure we are still getting enough. UK guidelines can vary, but generally it is recommended that our optimal blood levels are around 70-80nmol/l. If that is the case, then currently only 2 European countries are at optimal levels according to the study mentioned above.

It is very hard to tell just how much exposure we are getting to vitamin D through sunlight, which is why I would recommend supplementing anyway. Especially as generally, vitamin D supplements can be pretty cheap. If you can expose yourself to 15-30 minutes of midday sunlight that can boost your levels. However, absorption can vary from person to person based on pigmentation, amount of clothing on, ability of the body to absorb and store the vitamin, sun cream and how strong the UVB rays are. Quite a lot to think about, which is why we are better being safe than sorry by supplementing.

The NHS have recommended supplementing around 400 IU (international units) of vitamin D3, which is around 10 micrograms. Supplements will generally have both IU’s and microgram amounts so keep an eye out for them. 

From a personal point of view, I feel this number is outdated and does not take into account the fact that many of us have insufficient levels, and we do not get much exposure to sunlight. Many supplements out there will provide a minimum of 2,500 IU’s, add to that plenty of sun exposure and getting some through our diet (oily fish, eggs, fortified products) and we are probably at a more effective number.

So please, get yourself out in the sun, take your supplement, eat good quality nutritious food, and keep on smiling and laughing. Yes, I recommend taking a vitamin D3 supplement, but our overall lifestyle has the biggest part to play here.








3 mindset pillars


You may have heard us talking about our Mindset Academy that we have launched for our members, but what exactly do we mean by mindset and why do we feel it’s so important for our members to engage in?

We look at health and wellbeing as having 3 key pillars; exercise/fitness, nutrition, and the most overlooked aspect, mindset. Because without the right mindset towards the other 2 pillars, it makes things a whole lot tougher to accomplish anything.

“The established set of attitudes held by someone” is the dictionary definition of mindset. However, I think the definition above sums it up pretty well, too. It is a way of thinking that affects our outlook on life and how we approach both the good times and the tough times. Quite relevant given the current circumstances, we believe.

It’s not just the current situation that we are doing this for, however. How we approach health, fitness and indeed life has the most significant role to play in our success. We set up our academy to give members a platform to learn, discuss and develop a mindset to improve in every aspect of life. All we ask of them is to have an open mind and start thinking more in depth about how making subtle differences in their mental approach can help them develop a more positive, productive mindset.

We have split our academy into 6 modules, and we deliver one module per week to allow our members to take it in and provide them with a workbook for each module to go through. These aren’t just 1-hour lectures, we want everybody to engage and share their thoughts. It’s also not a quick fix, it’s a work in progress. We are laying down foundations for members to build on, week in, week out.

We are 4 modules into our 6-module programme, and we have all learnt so much already. The 6 modules are as follows:

  1. Goal Setting
  2. Habits
  3. Willpower
  4. Self-Belief
  5. Motivation
  6. The Power of Achievement


Where else would you start when it comes to mindset!  Talked about as the most important aspect of development and progress. After all, how do you know you’re progressing unless you have a goal or target to measure against?

In this module, we give our members an insight into how to set realistic personal goals and making a plan to achieve them. After all, a goal without a plan is just a dream…

The most powerful tool in our goal setting armoury is the WOOP model. This is all about planning ahead and being prepared for obstacles in our way before we face them. We then get thinking about what type of obstacles we face when reaching our goals and how to deal with them. These can be external, internal or intimate opponents, but are quite often opponents we haven’t even thought about. Falling at the first hurdle or obstacle can now be a thing of the past!


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit” – Aristotle

Greek philosopher Aristotle sums up how we view habits perfectly. Habits are defined as “a settled or regular tendency or practice”. We encourage our members not to view them as good or bad habits, but just as tendencies we have picked up over the years.

The act of just making a list of our habits is a great way to become more aware of what we are doing, and how each habit is helping or hindering our progress. Then from there it is about taking one habit at a time that you want to start or stop and putting it into action.

When changing a habit, we discuss it feeling unbearable to begin with, it then moves into a phase of feeling uncomfortable, until it is then ingrained into us and we end up doing it subconsciously. At that point it then becomes unstoppable.


A controversial subject amongst our coaches, who share their views on what willpower means to them. “Your ability to get yourself to act even when you don’t feel like it” is how we define willpower, which sums it up well.

In this topic we discuss how our willpower can be affected both internally and externally through our environment and our attitude. Our willpower is finite, there are things that drain it, such as our lifestyle. It is entirely up to us to ensure we charge our willpower every day and avoid the things that drain our willpower battery.

A great tool for “getting yourself to act even when you don’t feel like it” is Mel Robbins’ 5 second rule. We speak about how this can help in day to day circumstances to improve our willpower and self-control.


An intriguing topic to say the least. When it comes to self-belief, we have to address the opposite – self-doubt. Our coaches share their stories on the topic, along with the impact it can have on our willpower, goals and habits.

“A belief is an acceptance something exists or is true” – our beliefs are very personal to us, and belief in our own abilities have a huge impact on how we perform and progress. Acceptance that self-doubt will always creep in, but managing that doubt to ensure our self-belief will always prevail is key. We can improve our self-belief by our actions day in, day out. If these actions help to strengthen what we believe, then our self-belief will be stronger and more sustainable.


More than just a buzzword. The coaches discuss how we have evolved into “settlers”, and we strive for pleasure, not pain. We are not motivated to do things that bring us pain, naturally.

In this module we revisit Mel Robbins’ 5-second rule to build a necessity to act, and look into the maths involved in motivation. Yes that’s right there is a motivation equation! 

Finding what motivates you and gets you to act is vital. This is your ikigai (your purpose, or being). So let’s find what your ikigai is.


The final module in our mindset academy, and the true driving force behind why we act. Because nothing feels better than achievement, right?! Whatever your struggles and obstacles, or the pain and sacrifice, it all becomes worth it when you achieve what you set out to achieve.

We bring all of our mindset modules together to discuss the whole picture. Goal setting is vital when it comes to our habits, willpower, self-belief and motivation, and the same can be said for each and every one.


Improving our mindset is an ongoing process and should never be neglected. This course provides the foundations to push on. But our mindset should be worked on, just like we would with our bodies. Once we have learnt how to squat, do we stop squatting? The same should be applied with our mindset.

We provide ongoing support to our members to keep improving their mindset. There will be bumps in the road, but this course sets our members on the right path to keep improving and progressing in health, fitness, business, relationships, anything they wish to apply it to.

If you feel learning more about how mindset can help you or your team develop, then please get in touch. We would love to help!



At a time when we are doing anything we can to stay on top of our health, we like to pass on anything we feel can help. We look at all aspects of health and wellbeing both practically and in research, try and find what works best and deliver this information to you that we really feel you could benefit from. So please, can I ask that you read this with an open mind. Really start thinking about small changes you can make for your health, fitness and performance just by slightly altering something you already do every minute of every day. If somethings worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

Our respiratory system is a hot topic currently with Coronavirus having such a big impact on our lungs. So other than exercising to make our respiratory and cardiovascular system healthy and strong, what other small changes can we make day in, day out to give us the best possible foundation to stay healthy?

The way we breathe is one of those aspects we feel can help at the moment and is so often overlooked. Obviously, it is too early to have any evidence of the effect of breathing techniques on Covid-19. But as always, we listen to the leaders in their field and make our logical conclusions. The information below, however, can be beneficial in both current circumstances and long-term.

I have discussed breathing techniques in previous blogs and posts. They are something I use every day; they are simple enough for anyone to do and with the current circumstances they have just gone up on my priority list! I’m sure some of you are reading this thinking “I know how to breathe; if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be alive”. Touché, but what most people are doing now is exactly that – they are breathing to survive, not for better health and performance. There are subtle changes we can all make instantly to both improve our mental and physical health, but also make a marginal gain that may well be very important to our immune system.

So, would it be ok if I ask you to stop reading and just breathe for 30 seconds before you read the rest of this article? Really pay attention to how you breathe, how quick your breaths are and if you’re using your nose or mouth.


You have just taken 30 seconds to concentrate on your breathing. How did you breathe, was it exclusively through your nose or was some of it through your mouth?

Did you know that how you breathe as a child can have a big impact on both your looks and cognitive function? We have always been told to breathe in through our nose and out through our mouth, but there is no significant evidence of why this is recommended. We should ALWAYS be breathing through our nose, whether inhaling or exhaling. Even when we are training, the goal should always be to breathe through our nose. The mouth performs zero breathing functions, no medical textbooks identify the mouth as breathing apparatus.

Chronic mouth breathing in children has shown to narrow the upper jaw (maxilla) into a V-shape rather than a wider U-shape. This results in a change in aesthetic and function, the mouth becomes crowded and too small for the tongue. This results in crooked teeth and also forces the lower jaw to be pushed back. Children who breathe solely through the mouth have also been shown to be daydreamers in school and have reduced cognitive ability. In the extreme, a systematic review of literature in 2016 showed that 80% of research has shown chronic mouth breathers to have a higher incidence of learning difficulties.

Having a well-developed maxilla improves the nasal airway and breathing performance. Breathing solely through the nose helps to activate the diaphragm breathing muscles (more on diaphragmatic breathing later). It also has been shown to increase oxygen uptake in the blood, and in turn increase oxygen uptake in the cells by 10%. Now think of the impact that could have on performance and recovery alone.

A 2018 study took recreational athletes for 6 months. 50% of the group were taught to nasal breathe even during exercise, the other 50% did not. The nasal breathing group had an average breathing rate of 39 breaths per minute compared to the other groups 49 breaths per minute. They were able to complete the same amount of exercise and intensity with 22% less breathing ventilation.


When the World Health Organization call stress “The health epidemic of the 21st Century” and it costs USA businesses around $300 billion per year, you know things need to change! Certainly, more things need to change than the way we breathe, but let’s look at how it can help.

Breathing through the mouth initiates our fight or flight response. The shallow and fast breathing that we perform when mouth breathing is what triggers this response. This in turn triggers the release of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. If we are at work or training and already stressed and releasing cortisol, what do we think is going to happen to our stress levels when we increase that even further just by the way we breathe?

Breathing slow and deep through the nose and initiating the diaphragm can help to calm the mind and reduce the release of cortisol. In turn helping to reduce stress levels and improve sleep performance. If you have read and watched our previous posts, you know how highly we value sleep in health and stress management.

You may think that it’s too late for you to change as you have been breathing the way you have for 30,40 or 50 years. But changing your breathing habits NOW can have a huge impact on how you manage stress. People aged 40+ are most likely to breathe through their mouth whilst sleeping, which reduces oxygen uptake in the time that it’s most important to help recover. If you wake up regularly with a dry mouth, chances are it is because you are mouth breathing all night, which dries your mouth up. There are techniques that can be done to decongest the nose and reduce mouth breathing at night, which we will go on to later. And if you get used to just nasal breathing in the day, you will have a better chance of not doing it in your sleep.


On this topic of breathing techniques, the most renowned in the field that you may have heard of is Wim Hof. He is known as the Iceman for various feats in freezing conditions, such as the world record for distance swimming under ice.

Despite Wim Hof’s achievements and best-selling books, I have recently favoured another leader in the field in Patrick McKeown. I was made aware of him by a friend a while back and have been reading his work ever since. Both have similar breath holding techniques, but I have found Patrick McKeown’s methods to be a little more practical and evidence based. The main difference being that McKeown appreciates the positive role carbon dioxide has to play in breathing performance, as it is the main stimulus for our breathing, not oxygen.

Patrick McKeown recently put his perspective on the role breathing has to play on our immune system and fighting viruses.

Firstly, the facts we all know about nasal breathing;

  • The nose is the first line of defence against airborne viruses
  • It acts as a filtration device for air entering the body
  • Regulates air temperature coming into the body

The biggest effect nasal breathing can have on our immune system is based around its ability to generate nitric oxide, however. Nitric oxide produced in the nasal cavity is carried into the lungs, it helps to open up your airways and redistributes blood around the lungs. Nitric oxide is important for our immune system because it sterilises the air coming into the body, which could help with fighting viruses being inhaled. If we do not breathe through our nose, the nitric oxide in the nasal cavity goes unused, and therefore the first line of our bodies defence against the virus is breached without even a fight.

As stated previously, it is too early for any research to be done on Coronavirus and nasal breathing, but a 2013 study on influenza stated that nitric oxide production through nasal breathing had been proven to prevent influenza viruses. Another study in 2005 was published just after the SARS outbreak, and found that Nitric oxide had a key role to play in stopping the virus being spread when the body first comes into contact with the virus.

Therefore, we cannot conclude that nasal breathing can have the same positive effect on Coronavirus, but if Influenza and another similar virus that affects the respiratory system can be inhibited by it, then we should be taking notice at the very least.


Breathing techniques and exercises are a great way to improve the quality of your breathing, and also get used to breathing through your nose solely.

Mentally they are a great way to unwind, also. If like me you struggle to switch your brain off enough to meditate, then breathing techniques are the next best thing. In fact, they are a form of meditation, as they take your mind away from all the days stressors and get you thinking in the present, concentrating on breathing and only breathing.

Measurement – Bolt Score:

First of all, let’s go with a measurement technique called the Bolt score. It measures breathing volume and breathlessness. This works slightly differently to other tests, where you hold your breath AFTER you breathe out. This is to test your tolerance to carbon dioxide, as I said earlier this is the main driver behind our breathing. The longer you can hold your breath in this test, the more tolerant you are to carbon dioxide and the less air your lungs will need to breathe in.

The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found that if you can hold your breath in this test for 25 seconds or higher, there is an 89% chance that dysfunctional breathing is not present.

Below is a link to an instructional video to perform the test:

Diaphragmatic Breathing:

You have probably heard me talk about this one quite a lot. Take a second to watch your body as you breathe. Is it your chest that’s moving the most or is it your stomach/trunk?

Your diaphragm is a thin muscle at the bottom of your lungs and top of your abdomen. Using our diaphragm to breathe allows a greater capacity for the lungs and creates intra-abdominal pressure, which is essentially what is required for us to brace our core. That’s why it transpires over to our training too as bracing of the core is key to our strength in so many ways.

It is also a great stress reliever too. If you take 10 minutes out of your day to practice this, it can be a really positive way to reduce stress. It is as close as I can get to meditation, it clears the head and has been shown to lower our stress hormone levels (cortisol).

Below is a very simple illustration of how to start practicing diaphragmatic breathing, although it takes some time to get used to. We will do our own video on this soon to give you a better idea, but take a look at this one for now. The only thing I would change from the video is to make sure you breathe through your nose in both inhalation and exhalation.

Nasal Decongestion:

Some of you may be thinking that this is all well and good but you often have a blocked up or congested nose. Me too!

Here is a great little tool to decongest the nose, and only takes a few minutes.

Breath Holding:

This is potentially the most powerful for our fitness and performance and fighting off any long-term respiratory problems. 

Hypercapnic-hypoxic training is where we reduce the amount of oxygen in our body and increase the amount of carbon dioxide. We do this by taking a deep breath in followed by a deep breath out. At the very end of our deep breath out, we hold our breath until we feel starved of breath and go back to normal breathing.

This can help to increase our tolerance of carbon dioxide in the body and lower the breathing volume required when we are low on oxygen. Perform this process, then calm your breathing down after and try it again when your breathing is back to normal. Repeat this 5 times, and add on 1 more round after a few days.

This has been shown to increase our Haemoglobin by 5% and increase our capacity to take in oxygen.

I hope you read this with an open mind, and found it useful. If you would like to know more on any of the techniques, or you want the references to any papers I have mentioned then let me know. I don’t like to bombard you with references in a blog like this!

Container gyms from GWD Corporate Wellness

Container Gyms

Considering an onsite gym? Don’t have the space?

If you answered yes to both of those questions that’s absolutely fine, there is a solution……..Container gyms!

We can bring the gym to you through the means of container gyms. If you haven’t heard of such a thing, don’t worry, we will explain all you need to know. The main thing you need to know is that these gyms open up so much more opportunity to take the health & wellbeing of your company to the next level. Take a construction site for example. We could place a container gym right on site and the amazing part is that when work is completed, the gym can be picked up and moved to the next site, it will always move with you. 

Container gyms can be fully kitted out with everything you would need for all health & fitness goals and can be changed overtime to suit.

It’s too easy to simply say, you can’t have one, there’s no way it’s possible. Now if you said that 5 years ago, we may have agreed but with having the means of getting a gym pretty much wherever it can fit (which is pretty much anywhere) there’s no more excuses. The average container will take up around 2-3 normal car parking spaces, that’s it. So, you can see straight away that this style of gym is very space effective. The excuse of not having the space for an onsite gym is kind of redundant now. 

They don’t take long to get up and running either which is another bonus as you then don’t have the added stress of making sure work is getting done properly and the likelihood of any major issues occurring is greatly reduced. Plus, there’s no issues in terms of building planning and the whole process that entails. 

A lot of the equipment can be made to an ‘all weather’ standard. Even in the worst times of winter you can sleep easy knowing it will all hold up and last. When it comes around to summer and the days get brighter and warmer, a container gym’s versatility really shows. The gym can be opened up and the outside surrounding area can be then used as more gym floor space. Some equipment can be taken outside the container, there can also be attachments to add on to the container itself. This means there can be a lot more variation with sessions and exercise selection. 

Container gyms are extremely versatile also. They can be custom built to fit an exact spec and equipped to suit anyone and everyone. If you’re thinking, 1 container seems a bit small, don’t worry. Container gyms can be made bigger by adding more containers on. Space becoming an issue again for 2 containers? That’s not a problem as you can stack the containers on top of each other. You don’t lose any room and you actually get a lot more space for your gym. Another note is that they have a very unique look to them. These gyms will be becoming very popular over the coming years.