Not Crossfit…Better Than Bootcamp, DUFF on Proper Breathing

Did you know that the way you breathe can impact your fitness and overall wellness?  According to the Deepak Chopra Center, the benefits of deep breathing include:

    • Reduced anxiety and depression
    • Lower/stabilized blood pressure
    • Increased energy levels
    • Muscle relaxation
    • Decreased feelings of stress

And while it may be easy to dismiss these things as “relaxation” techniques, proper breathing techniques also translate into your time at the gym. 

Health experts ranging from Harvard University Medical School to the U.S. Military unanimously tout the importance of deep breathing during workouts.  Former Navy SEAL Stew Smith explains on Military.com that “learning to breathe during exercise has benefits such as preventing dizziness during activity, improving athletic performance, and increasing fat-burning.” 

According to Livestrong.com, in aerobic activities like running or swimming, a good breathing pattern allows your working muscles to “continue to receive the oxygen they need to keep contracting.”  And the impact of proper breathing goes beyond cardio and is important in activities like weightlifting too.  Oxygen is essential for building muscles and the more air you are taking in, the easier it is for your body to get stronger. 

Unfortunately, while deep breathing is something that we humans come by naturally, environmental and societal challenges have put a crimp, so to speak, in the way that we breathe.  According to Harvard Health Publications, “Unconsciously, [we] hold [our] breath or breathe irregularly,” often because the tension and anxiety of modern life causes us to breathe more shallowly.  The more stressed we become, the more normal shallow breathing feels.  This can lead to poor posture, back problems and even more shallow breathing.  It can become a vicious cycle.

So how do we break out of this cycle and apply proper breathing techniques into our own lives and beyond—into our workouts?

Try Stew Smith’s simple exercise for increasing your breathing during a run:

    • Breathe a 3:2 inhale-to-exhale ratio. So INHALE on the LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT foot strikes
    • EXHALE fully on the RIGHT, LEFT foot strikes
    • While keeping this pattern up may cause you to slow down initially, you will notice that your heart rate will lower and your endurance will increase.

For weight training, it’s a bit more simple: always exhale on exertion.  Smith explains, “when you are pushing a bench press off your chest, you exhale on the push and inhale as you bring it slowly to your chest. When you are doing a pull-up, you exhale on the pulling up motion and inhale on the way down.”  This proper breathing will rev up your metabolism, prevent internal injuries, and help lower blood pressure.