Book Review: The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown

The Oxygen Advantage focuses on a topic in health and wellness that I had been ignorant to until now: breathing. We all know that you need oxygen to survive, but to the lay-person (which included myself) the importance of breathing stopped there. Patrick McKeown makes the case that breathing properly is just as important as the food we intake, the exercise we do, and how much we sleep – and will even impact all three of those pillars. 

If I were to boil down the main idea of the book into a short sentence it would be this: breathe through your nose instead of through your mouth whenever possible. 


Here are some of my key takeaways I had on why breathing through your nose is important:

  1. Breathing through your nose allows you to activate your diaphragm instead of primarily using your upper chest when mouth breathing. This strengthens your diaphragm and allows you to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which helps you to relax. 
  2. The nasal passageways actually release nitric oxide into the bloodstream which mouth breathing cannot do. Nitric oxide isn’t just the ingredient in the preworkout you took 10 years ago, it plays an important role in vasoregulation, homeostasis, neurotransmission, immune defense, and respiration. 
  3. This last one is most important for kids: the way kids breath will actually impact the development of their teeth and facial structure. Mouth breathing can lead to crooked teeth and a narrower face, while nose breathing can lead to a wider face and stronger jawline. 

This book is highly practical. After Patrick explains the importance of nose breathing and the science behind it, he gets very tactical with how this information can be implemented. He explains a test you can do which will give you a benchmark to work towards improving. In addition to that, the two exercises I have found to be most helpful is 1) what he calls “breathe light to breathe right” which can be done before bed and 2) a breath holding exercise that can be done on my daily walk which simulates training at altitude. 
One of the best parts about this book was how practical it is and easy to implement. If you want to learn more here is a good video summary which encouraged me to pick up the book in the first place.