Be Well: Breathing and Exercise

Breathing & Exercise

As we all know, proper exercise form is the key to maximizing results and safety during a workout, but proper breathing is just as important. Breathing improves your energy level, gets oxygen to your muscles, lubricates the joints and affects your entire workout. It is important to do it properly.

Since breathing is an involuntary function of the body, most people don’t think too much about it. However, it should be a focus during exercise. When you exercise, your heart rate increases, and your body needs more oxygen. This is why you start breathing more quickly. Your respiratory system is trying to get enough oxygen to your working muscles. Improper breathing during exercise can cause headaches, dizziness and even fainting, so learning proper breathing technique is key.

Different types of exercise require different types of breathing. During a cardio workout, your breathing will generally follow your natural involuntary rhythm, but you should be “belly breathing.” This is the best way to get the most oxygen to your muscles quickly. Think about filling your belly as full of air as you can. The inhalation should push your belly out and expand your rib cage. Your belly should pull back in when you exhale.

A common breathing technique for strength-training is “exhale on the exertion.” This means when you push the weight away from your body, you should also be pushing the air out of your lungs. There are other techniques where you hold your breath during a movement in order to maintain your posture for a little longer or to help you lift more weight. An exercise professional can help you learn these proper techniques to maximize your strength-training workouts.

Breathing can also be done as an exercise all on its own, which can help improve all of the systems of the body.  A deep-breathing exercise of a 5-3-5 count (breathe in deeply through the nose for a count of 5, hold the breath for a count of 3, then exhale through the mouth for a count of 5) affects the body in several ways. It strengthens the lungs, which can help prevent respiratory problems. It strengthens the heart as well. If the lungs are strong, they send more oxygen to the blood. Therefore, the heart can deliver oxygen to the body more efficiently and doesn’t have to work as hard. If your nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) receive more oxygen as a result of deep-breathing exercise, this improves the health of the whole body. Lastly, extra oxygen in the body burns excess fat, so deep-breathing exercises can also help with weight loss and control.

Proper breathing plays a key role in a successful exercise program and is even a form of exercise all by itself. Learning correct breathing technique will improve your overall wellness.

Be Well Tips
•  Learn proper breathing technique.
•  Different exercises require different breathing techniques.
•  Breathing is a form of exercise.
•  Deep breathing improves all of the systems of the body.
•  Consult a physician before beginning any exercise program.