Breathing is a vital part of exercise, but we often don’t think about it. Our muscles need oxygen to function and the more we move, the more oxygen we need. The way we breathe affects how well we can deliver oxygen to our muscles and therefore the quality of our exercise and general movement.
Good breathing can help you:
• Work harder
• Improve your range of motion
• Lift heavier weights
• Increase your muscular endurance (complete more repetitions)
• Recover faster
• Reduce stress
Deep breathing from your diaphragm is most effective as it allows you to take in more oxygen. The key is to fill your belly with air rather than your chest. When you breathe from your diaphragm, you should feel your belly expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale.
To practice deep breathing, place a hand on your chest and a hand on your belly. As you breathe in and out, focus on feeling your belly rise and fall. You may want to lie on your back while you practice as this makes it easier to breathe deeper. Counting in your head can also help you to slow your breathing.
When you get used to the deep breathing technique, start practicing it when you exercise. As you complete an exercise, focus on breathing from your belly and feeling it rise and fall. Once you feel comfortable with this, you can start thinking about how to adjust your breathing pattern to suit the exercise. For example, if you’re walking or running you may want to inhale for 3 seconds and exhale for 3 seconds, but if you’re doing yoga you may want to make your inhale and exhale longer and hold the breath before you exhale.
By consciously thinking about your breath and practicing deep breathing, you can take your exercise to the next level.