Every good fitness instructor, personal trainer, or coach will be sure to instruct clients to breathe deeply when exercising. Filling the lungs upon contraction helps bring oxygen to the working muscles. Breathing also helps regulate running rhythm during a marathon or endurance bike race for increased energy and a strong finish.
Proper breathing while exercising can improve performance as well as reduce the chance of injury. During weight lifting, it’s extremely important not to hold or force the breath, known as the Valsalva maneuver, which increases pressure in the thorax and abdomen causing blood pressure to rise dangerously high, very quickly. The result is dizziness, fainting, painful exercise induced headaches, and potentially stroke or death.
Then too, if daily stress has you anxious and feeling tense or worried, doctors recommend deep breathing to restore inner calm and reduce blood pressure. Medical researchers conclude that the emotional benefits of deep breathing include:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Building skills to manage stress
- Increasing self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
With that in mind, some research suggests focused breathing may help such conditions as:
- Anxiety disorders
- Binge eating
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Sleep problems
- Substance abuse
To learn rejuvenating breathing techniques try a Yoga class. Performing a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises promotes a more flexible body as well as a calm mind. By moving through poses that require balance and concentration, there’s less focus on a frantic day and more on being in the moment.
In Yoga, breathing is life. Proper breathing brings more oxygen to the blood and to the brain, and to vital life energy.
- Move the belly with the breath — the diaphragm is the primary engine of the breath. This domelike muscle descends toward the abdomen, displacing the abdominal muscles and gently swelling the belly
- Keep the upper body quiet — relax the jaw, throat, neck, and shoulders, and imagine the breath sweeping into the deepest parts of the lungs as you while inhaling in and out
- Breathe easy — consciously relax into a wave like quality of breath to deepen the sense of peace and ease
- Lengthen exhalations — try gently extending each exhalation by one or two seconds
- Pause after each exhalation — this can be deeply satisfying and evoke feelings of profound quiet and stillness
- Let the whole body breathe — let the belly swell and release, the hips rock back and forth, the shoulders bob, and the spine gently undulate
Breathing correctly all day can not only keep us safe from injury during exercise but also reduce stress for a healthy long life. To learn more about improving breathing technique, try a Yoga class.
Don’t forget to browse the ACE GETFIT website for exercise tips, and more ways to live healthy.