How your breathing affects your workout

Did you know you can improve your health just by learning how to breathe properly?

Correct breathing improves your health and fitness by optimising oxygenation (the addition of oxygen in your body), lowering your blood pressure, reducing stress and balancing your nervous systems.

Breathing properly can also help lower the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, and release mood-boosting hormones like serotonin. This can improve your athletic performance, mental focus and enhance brain health.

Are you breathing correctly?

During your workout, breathe through your nose to help you improve performance, endurance, post-exercise energy levels, and even your ability to metabolise fat. A shortage of oxygen can weaken your stamina as your muscles can go stiff and tense which will make you tired much faster.

If you breathe shallowly with your chest instead, you will have a tough time with endurance tasks. You may feel winded a lot faster. This includes going on long runs or doing high-intensity interval training. You may feel painfully out of breath in a very short time.

Breathing mistakes

If you don’t use your diaphragm while you breathe, your chest-muscles, and the muscles in your upper body work too hard. These muscles become tense, leading to symptoms of chest pain, headaches, neck pain, upper back pain and numbness. It can also lead to hyperventilation – breathing too fast, and too shallow, because your lungs aren’t working effectively.

To use your diaphragm, make sure you breathe down into your belly, and into the sides of your chest – not using your shoulders and neck. (To help, put your hands on the sides of your chest, and breathe towards your hands.

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Maintain regular, steady breaths

To breathe deeply and properly, the key is to engage your diaphragm, located below your ribcage. Breathe through your nose, with the diaphragm relaxed. Breathe rhythmically and silently.

Keep your breath regular and smooth for about eight to 10 breathe cycles each minute. Everyone is different, but once you get the hang of it, it will become like second nature.

Give your lungs the breath it deserves

The best detailed instruction in breathing the best way possible, is through guided meditation, yoga or tai chi classes. These practises involve deep breathing. Learn to breathe like a pro, and you’ll reap other health benefits as well. When everything is in tune, your body will function at its very best.

Adjust your breathing habits:

  • Breathe through the nose. Close your mouth and place your tongue up to the palate.
  • Extend your exhale. Inhale for three seconds, exhale for four seconds, pause for two seconds and then repeat.
  • Stand “proud.” Make sure your body posture is upright.
  • Relax and become aware of any tension going on at this moment. Let it go.

Effective breathing is just as important to your training as the exercise itself. Getting the right amount of oxygen delivered to your body’s tissues will help you perform better and take your training to the next level.

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