This is a guest post by Ken Stanfield, who shares some effective exercise breathing techniques for working out. Enjoy!
Four Effective Exercise Breathing Techniques
While you’re exercising, it’s important not just to breathe but to breathe properly. When you inhale, oxygen travels to your red blood cells. These in turn send the oxygen to your organs, enabling them to function. If you don’t breathe effectively (i.e. if you breathe shallowly or too quickly), your body cannot perform at its best. You may find yourself getting fatigued easier or find it more difficult to concentrate. You could liken it to how well your car runs. You don’t just need gasoline in order to make your car go; your engine needs oxygen to combine with the gas in order to for the gas to burn and for the car to move.
It isn’t difficult to learn how to control your breathing. Here are a few simple breathing techniques that will help ensure that you get the most from your workout.
Please note: if you experience shortness of breath, you should talk to your doctor before you try these techniques.
Abdominal Breathing Technique
The American Medical Student Association calls this “the most important [technique] to learn before exploring other techniques.” It helps boost your immune system and your stamina by increasing the flow of blood and lymph through your body.
Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Take a deep breath and make sure that the hand on your abdomen rises higher than the one on your chest. This will mean that your diaphragm is sending air down into your lungs. Exhale through your mouth, then breathe in slowly through your nose while counting to four. Hold that breath and count to seven (or as high as you can go without going over seven). When you reach seven, exhale slowly through your mouth while counting to eight. Repeat this cycle four times. Dr. Andrew Weil calls this the “4-7-8 Exercise.”
Bellows Breathing Technique
This technique will give you a quick boost in energy before you exercise by encouraging the release of chemicals that help the body deal with stress. Think of it as a substitute for a cup of coffee or an energy drink.
Sit up straight in a comfortable position. Close your mouth and breathe in and out of your nose as quickly as possible (do two to three in/outs per second at most). You should feel pressure at the base of your neck, your chest and your abdomen. You’ll find that these muscles will strengthen the more that you practice this technique.
Start off by performing this exercise for fifteen seconds at most. Do not try to do more: you could risk hyperventilating and passing out. After you’ve practiced it for a while, you can increase the duration of the exercise by five seconds at a time. However, be careful not to exceed one full minute.
Breathing While Running
A good rule of thumb is to breathe once every two steps or so (i.e. inhale for two steps, exhale for the next two steps). Runners sometimes refer to this as the 2:2 rhythm. At first, you might feel a little awkward counting your steps and your breaths at the same time. Don’t feel bad. Relax and slow down if you need to. You can speed up later when you feel more comfortable.
Breathing and Resistance Exercises (weight-lifting, push-ups, etc.)
The important thing to remember here is to exhale while you’re exerting yourself. For push-ups, breathe out while you’re pushing up and breathe in while you’re lowering down. For crunches, breathe out while you’re lifting your torso and shoulders and breathe in while you’re lowering them back down. While lifting weights, breathe out while you’re lifting them and breathe in while you’re lowering them down. Forgetting to breathe while doing resistance exercises keeps blood from flowing to your heart and can raise your blood pressure.
And as always, remember to drink enough water while you exercise. Think of water as the gas in your tank: if you’re running low, you won’t work as well either. The right mix of hydrating and breathing will help your body run better while you’re working out. It’ll help keep you from getting dizzy, it’ll increase how much work you can do and it’ll help you burn more calories.
Bio: Ken Stanfield is a writer, blogger and health enthusiast who spends his time researching and writing about respiratory health, healthcare, geriatric healthcare needs and humanitarianism. He currently writes for the nebulizer systems supplier justnebulizers.com