Moving Well


Learning to breathe correctly while working out can significantly improve your fitness routine. Proper breathing during a body workout supplies your muscles with optimum oxygen, which allows you to strengthen your body more effectively. Here are a few ways as to how breathing can affect your workout results.

08 Feb 2020

Best Way to Breathe

Diaphragmatic breathing is the most efficient breathing technique for both rest and exercise. It engages the diaphragmatic muscles with every breath, and involves slow breathing through the nose or mouth. This breathing technique is effective for exercise as it ensures core activation and a steady supply of oxygen to your muscles, preventing early fatigue.

Diaphragmatic breathing can also help you avoid abdominal cramps during workouts. These cramps occur because the wrong muscles are being used for the purpose of respiration. The best way to practice this breathing technique is to lie flat on the floor, with one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Ensure that only your stomach rises when you inhale, and relaxes when you exhale. Aim for 10 deep breaths in total for each set until you get used to the method.

Difference between Nose and Mouth Breathing

It is more ideal for you to breathe through your nose as compared to your mouth. Your nose contains cilia (hair-like structures) that help you filter out pollution, allergens and bacteria before air reaches your lungs. The nasal passage also helps you to humidify air through mucus, preventing irritation. Breathing through your mouth does not provide the same filtering and air humidification.

Many individuals tend to breathe instinctively through the mouth during workouts. This is because breathing through the nose does not allow you to take in as much air as compared to your mouth. Breathing through the nose may not be suitable for power but it is able to slow down your breathing rate. This is why it is ideal for physical activities that focus on mobility and relaxation, such as yoga, tai chi and Pilates.

Breath Control for Strength Training

The most effective breathing technique for strength training involves breathing out during the concentric phase (lifting of weights). Exhaling and squeezing air out of your stomach increases core engagement. A tight core is equivalent to more power and stability, which will help improve your lifting performance. Breathing out during the lift movement also prevents a drop in blood pressure, which can protect you from experiencing post-lift dizziness.

Consistent Breathing for Aerobic Exercise

A consistent breathing pattern which focuses on even and measured breaths is the ideal breathing technique for aerobic workouts. This breathing technique ensures an increase of nitric oxide intake into your body. This intake aids in dilating blood vessels and increasing oxygenated blood flow to the heart to help it function more efficiently. It also ensures that fatigued muscles receive a good supply of oxygen to keep working.

Even and consistent breathing for long-distance endurance sports can ensure a steady pace throughout. The recommended breathing rate for endurance sports is to inhale for 2-3 seconds and exhale at the same length of time. An example of this would be to breathe in for three foot strides and breathe out after three subsequent foot strides during long-distance running.

Longer Breaths for Mobility Routines

Long, deep breaths promote better access to your range of motion. Failing to do this could withhold tension and restrict movement. A breathing pattern involving long inhales and exhales can aid in releasing tension and easing through a full range of motion. In yoga, efficient breathing which uses this technique is important for moving into deeper stretches or poses. The recommended breathing pattern for mobility movement is 4-5 seconds of inhalation and exhalation each. It is advisable to aim for longer breaths as you progress further.

Breathing is an innate process learned at the point of birth. Breathing properly during exercise is a skill that can be mastered through consistent practice. Once mastered, proper breathing for specific workout types will significantly impact the effectiveness of a workout, resulting in a stronger body and better mindfulness of how breathing affects movement.