Proper breathing during exercise.

Breathing may not seem like something you need to think about during exercise, but it definitely is.

Yes, breathing is involuntary, but during exercise we tend to hold our breath, breathe too slow or too fast, too deep or too shallow or even inhale and exhale at the wrong time. While this may not make or break your workout, it can affect the exercise itself, how well you perform it and your mind-body connection (which is important for learning form and achieving results.)

When you exercise, your working muscles demand greater amounts of oxygen (than when you’re at rest) and you create more carbon dioxide waste as a result. This results in an automatic increase in your respiration rate, but you shouldn’t take this process for granted. Becoming more aware of your breath can help you feel more comfortable (breathing too slowly can increase your heart rate and affect your perceived intensity), prevent complications, (like dizziness or faintness that can result  from a lack of oxygen and get more out of your workouts.
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Here’s what you need to know to breath properly during five common types of exercises…

1)Cardio (Aerobic) exercise.

Maybe the most popular form of exercise, walking, biking, swimming and jogging/running, when doing this type of exercise deep breathing (whether you breath through your nose, mouth or a combination of both is up to you), try to keep your breathing both deep and relaxed, this diaphragmatic breathing or “belly” breathing during cardio allows for deeper, fuller breaths and better oxygen delivery during intense exercise.

Here’s how to do it:

1)Relax your abdominals slightly, pulling them in too tightly or sucking in your stomach will limit how fully you can breath.

2)Breathe deeply enough that your belly, not your chest - rises and falls as you inhale and exhale.

3)Continue this technique at your own pace to meet your oxygen needs during exercise.

2)Strength Training.

Strength training increases the body’s need for oxygen and automatically results in faster breathing. However, many people tend to hold their breath during strenuous activity like weight lifting, this is known as the valsalva maneuver and can limit oxygen delivery to the brain causing dizziness, fainting a spike in blood pressure and other complications. The most important thing about breathing during strength training is just to do it! Fitness experts recommend that you exhale on the exertion phase of the exercise and inhale on the easier phase. By focusing on breathing in on the return and breathing out on the exertion phase of each exercise you’ll also prevent yourself from holding your breath.


Proper breathing while you stretch after your workout helps your body relax so that you can return to a resting state, in addition to aiding in the mechanical removal of waste by products of exercise, proper breathing during stretches may increase your flexibility and allows you to relax more fully, many people tend to hold their breath during stretching or to take short shallow breaths, but ideally we should take deep, relaxed diaphragmatic breaths. When stretching, try inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.


“Even if you follow no other instructions, learn to breath correctly” this quote by Joseph Pilates (the creator of the exercise) tells us just how important proper breathing is during his mind-body exercises. Pilates typically involves lateral or ribcage breathing, which differs considerably from diaphragmatic breathing. Lateral or ribcage breathing is when abs are engaged (naval pulled towards spine) inhale deeply through the nose without allowing your belly to rise on your exhale. On your exhale, open your lips slightly and push all of the air out of your mouth both forcefully and slowly. This style of breath keeps the abs engaged and helps you perform Pilates exercises with greater ease and better control. Like strength training, you will most often exhale during the phase of an exercise that involves the most exertion, but in Pilates breath is used as a way yo hold your attention.


Yoga has a unique form of breathing called Ujjayi breathing, that serves many purposes. During this slow, even breath through the nose, you should inhale for 4-5 heartbeats pause slightly and then exhale for an equal length of time. The back of the throat constricts slightly to allow the air to create an audible sound. The audible breath serves as a “moving meditation” during a yoga practice. This breathing can help you focus during difficult poses and act as a metronome for the body, each movement timed to the length of an inhalation or exhalation.

There is a bit more to proper breathing than just going with the flow and often this proves to be a disservice to you and your workout. Proper breathing techniques for different exercises take practice before they become automatic, but your workouts will improve once you get the hang of it and you will definitely notice a positive difference in stamina, ability and control.


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