Saturday, 11 February 2012

Exercise & Breathing |

Exercise & Breathing Photo Credit breath image by martin schmid from

Proper breathing can enhance your exercise experience with an increased availability of oxygen to the muscles and organs. Although breathing is an automatic function, it is often done incorrectly. Shallow or mouth breathing is ineffective but common, particularly during exercise. The effects of aging, shallow breathing and disease may decrease your oxygen intake. Practicing breathing techniques, exercising to strengthen supporting musculature, and cardiovascular training can effectively improve your breathing quality.


Breathing allows for an intake of oxygen and release of carbon dioxide gases from the body. This exchange occurs in your lungs. The more efficiently this exchange can occur, the greater your potential for optimal health. You breathe in oxygen, using your diaphragm to expand your lungs. The airway tubes carry the air to the alveoli, where an exchange is made. Your blood picks up the oxygen and drops off the carbon dioxide, which you breathe back out.

Potential Problems

Due to the increased need and rate of airflow during exercise, there are a variety of problems that you may experience. Aging, disease and restrictions from injury or lack of use can all impact breathing and curtail its effectiveness. Exercise-induced bronchospasm is a disorder that causes the air tubes in your lungs to get smaller. Some of your symptoms may include shortness of breath, coughing, chest tightness, and wheezing. According to Netwellness, a cooperative of partner universities, "about 80 percent of people with asthma experience EIB." If you are diagnosed with asthma, this condition can then be referred to as exercise-induced asthma.

Breathing and Exercise

As you exercise, your need for oxygen increases. This is readily apparent when you perform cardiovascular exercise, which requires an increased rate and depth of breathing. Training this system allows you to more efficiently obtain enough oxygen.The health benefits of cardiovascular training are well documented, with the American Heart Association recommending that you get 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week.

Breathing Techniques

Practicing and training can help you to increase your breathing effectiveness, allowing you to improve your oxygen intake. The University of Missouri-Kansas recommends the Chinese technique for retraining mouth breathers by practicing nose breathing. To use this technique, take 3 quick breaths in through your nose without exhaling while at the same time raising your arms out to your sides, moving them higher with each breath to open your chest. After the third breath, exhale and lower your arms. Humming with exhalation is another technique you can practice. Take as deep of a breath as you can. Hum during exhalation, pushing as much air from your your lungs as possible.

Breathing Exercises

The abdominals and diaphragm are essential muscles in the breathing process, and strengthening them will allow you to breathe more easily. Here is a simple exercise you can do to strengthen these muscles. Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your hands on your stomach, directly beneath your ribs. Breathe in through your nose, feeling your hands rise with the expansion of the diaphragm. Release and repeat. Once you are comfortable with this, repeat this exercise, allowing your chest to fully expand. There should be a rolling effect from your stomach to your chest.


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