Just Breathe: The Simplest Way Yet to Improve Your Fitness

Fitness - Healthy couple stretching after training on white background  

 

 

You may consider yourself an expert at breathing.

It is after all something you have done for your

whole life.

 

However, this involuntary action is actually quite

complex and chances are you are not breathing

optimally.

 

We know our muscles can't do anything without

oxygen.  It is oxygen that causes them to contract

and to produce power.  So, better breathing

equals better performing muscles.  Therefore,

learning to breathe more efficiently can significantly

improve your health and fitness.

 

Breathing powerfully affects every system in

your body . . . cardiovascular, nervous, endocrine,

lymph, immune, digestive, and of course,

respiratory systems. It allows your body to

optimize oxygen transport to all these organs.

 

It's not just about the oxygen though.  Continuous

breathing increases nitric oxide in the blood.  This

is an important gas that relaxes the arteries and

keeps the blood flow that you need to sustain your

activity.   Not just to your muscles, but also your

brain.

 

The powerful results of an effective breathing

technique include:

  • Reduction of stress and anxiety
  • Improved mental clarity
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Faster recovery time

 

Sounds good right?

 

But how do you know if your breathing is

inefficient?

 

There are three types of breathing issues

we often see:

  1. Mouth Breathing
  2. Over breathing or hyperventilating
  3. Upper Chest Breathing

 

  • Mouth breathing

 

Mouth and nose breathing differ dramatically in

terms of the depth of your breath, in how the air

is "prepared", and the physical effects they

produce. Mouth breathing can elevate your heart

rate and blood pressure.  This can result in early

fatigue and dizziness when exercising.

 

At some point during strenuous exercise or running

it does become too difficult to nose breath, so work

on it during less strenuous activity and resort to

mouth breathing when you must.

 

People with respiratory issues, such as asthma or

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), will

especially benefit from the warm, moist, clean air

that comes in through the nose.

 

  • Over breathing

 

When you chronically over breathe, the heavier

breathing volume that's coming into your lungs

can cause a disturbance of blood gasses, including

the loss of carbon dioxide.  Eliminating too much

carbon dioxide from your bloodstream causes

your blood vessels to constrict— hence the light-

headedness you  feel when hyperventilating.

 

So, even though it seems contradictory, the

heavier you breathe, the less oxygen that's

actually delivered throughout your body

 

  • Upper chest breathing

 

When most people take a deep breath you will

see their chest rise and fall.  When you chest

breathe, your shoulders get tense and move up

and down.  This shallow breathing can even

activate your bodies  stress response. That's

wasted energy — energy you should conserve

for the activity your performing.

 

Deep breathing from your diaphragm slows

down and regulates your breathing. If you are

breathing from your diaphragm you should see

your stomach expand when you inhale. This

allows you to get more oxygen into your lungs -

and to your muscles - during each breath. This

improves your oxygenation, and has a calming

effect because it activates your parasympathetic

nervous system (your bodies relaxation

response).

 

So, are you sold on this breathing thing?

 

Becoming aware of your breath is the first step

toward changing how you breathe. A couple of

times a day simply focus on your breath and

notice how you're breathing. Place one hand on

your chest and the other on your belly, and focus

on taking slow, regular breaths through your

nose. On the inhalation, your belly should rise

before your chest.

 

You actually need to think about and control your

breath during your workout for peak performance.

Focused breathing during exercise will help you

optimize performance, endurance, post-exercise

energy levels, and even your ability to metabolize

fat. Next week, we will dig deeper into specifically

how to breath during different types of exercise.

 

Until then. . . .

Engage with us on Facebook @peakpotentialpt to

ask any questions and get more information on

breath work.