Proper breathing while exercising is extremely important. Breathing is how we supply our cells, tissues and organs with oxygen. Breathing while exercising is important to:
- Lower blood pressure;
- Reduce stress by decreasing stress hormones and increasing the mood enhancing hormone, serotonin;
- Enhance athletic performance;
- Improve brain function and focus.
When we inhale, we bring oxygen into our blood to distribute, and when we exhale, we purge our body of toxins and gases, such as carbon dioxide. Proper breathing involves inhaling and exhaling through your nose and breathing into your abdomen, not your chest. To ensure you are breathing correctly, your abs should rise before your chest. If you breathe rapidly with shallow breaths you will often experience a shortness of breath, stressing your heart and lungs.
When exercising always exhale on exertion. Do not hold your breath, as this causes a drop in the energy in your cells, leading to fatigue.
Keeping all of this in mind, it is important to note that one method of breathing while exercising does not work for all workouts. During cardio workouts continuous breathing increases nitric oxide gas, which relaxes arteries and maintains the blood flow needed to sustain rhythmic activity, such as running. While lifting weights you want to inhale on the less strenuous phase of the exercise and exhale on the more strenuous phase. During free-weight exercises or body weight based exericses such as push-ups, a good rule of thumb is to exhale during the phase of exercise where gravity is opposed. Proper breathing will tense your core muscles and aid you in keeping the proper form. Proper breathing also keeps the systolic blood pressure (the active pressure) more normalized and helps prevent a spike in pressure, which may cause several adverse health conditions.
During stretching concentrate on slow, deep breaths. This will help you loosen up as you stretch your muscles and lower the chance of “pulling a muscle”.
If your workout involves plyometrics, it helps stabilize your body when you hold your breath during explosive movements. For example, to keep your body rigid you should focus on holding your breath when your foot strikes the floor.
When you are finished with a tough set of exercises your body is craving oxygen and it needs to be replenished. Remember to breathe deeply into your abdomen(diaphramic breathing), bringing in more oxygen to your body, aiding in a quicker recovery.
During your next workout, keep these points in mind and check yourself to ensure you have the proper breathing techniques. If you find you are not breathing correctly, focus on the proper technique and soon it will become automatic. Be sure to ask our trainers about more tips on breathing while exercising and sign up for your next class!