The Benefits of Correct Breathing

By Joe Vennare, PT & Fitness Program Director at LeanonLife.com

Just breathe. Seems simple right? Whether you’re relaxing or running breathing is kind of essential for performance and well, staying alive.

When you’re lounging there’s not a whole lot of thought put toward inhaling and exhaling. But, if you’re looking to get fit, exercising can interfere with your breathing pattern. While breathing isn’t likely to be your first consideration when undertaking a workout routine, the importance of oxygen and how it’s being delivered to your body can’t be overlooked. These fitness tips for learning how to breathe like this for every form of exercise will help you get the most out of your exercise efforts.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Running is difficult enough on its own. Pacing and strides, heart rate and hill sprints can be exhausting. Given that fact, it’s understandable that you might not be minding your breathing as you gasp for air. But, it’s also true that breathing better, or correctly, can help increase your speed and performance. With respect to cardiovascular exercise, correctly refers to breathing deeply from the stomach. This approach is known as diaphragmatic breathing, where you’re filling your belly or diaphragm with air before exhaling. When compared with shorter, shallow breaths, “belly breathing” allows for more thorough and complete uptake of oxygen helping you withstand the demands of more intense exercise.

If you’re trying to transition from “panic breathing,” the short and incomplete breaths that are more like gasping than breathing, to belly breaths, follow these steps. First, relax your body. It can be tough during exercise, but roll your shoulders back and down, shake out your arms and loosen your abs. Contracting them will make breathing difficult. Next, breathe to fill your stomach, not your chest. Then, while you’re running, breathe on a 3:2 inhale-to-exhale ratio so that you inhale on the left, right, left steps and exhale on the right, left strides.

This method may take some getting used to, but like anything practice makes perfect. It may be helpful to slow down your speed while learning to control your breathing. As you master your breathing pattern you can ramp up your speed and reap the benefits of more oxygen powering your body.

Strength Training

You would never hold your breath while sitting at your desk during the workday, would you? Probably not. That’s why it’s so surprising that many people tend to hold their breath while strength training. Any time you exert yourself, your body needs more oxygen to perform the desired task. Weight training is no exception. Thankfully, it’s a little easier to nail down the breathing pattern for lifting when compared with running. There’s no ration to remember here, just timing. During the exertion, breathe out; breathe in during the easier or return phase. More specifically, if you’re pressing a weight away from your body, exhale. As the weight returns to the starting point, during the easy or return phase, you should be inhaling.

Yoga and Stretching

When it comes to less intense forms of exercise like yoga or stretching, proper breathing can help in the recovery process and increase flexibility. Like running, start by relaxing your body. Next, be sure to breathe deeply engaging the diaphragm and filling the belly completely on the inhale. Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth is a great way to relax the body, slowing the heart rate in the process. With each breath, lean into your stretch a bit more, relaxing your muscles as you go.

Take some time to implement these breathing techniques to improve your performance and exercise ability. If you find yourself still out of breath after training to instill these fitness tips it might be time to see a doctor. If you’re a smoker, cigarettes could be the issue, so try kicking that habit. If you’re still short of breath, asthma, allergies, or poor posture could also be the culprit. Once you address these issues you’ll be on your way toward effortless breathing. 

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