The Importance of Breathing While Exercising


It’s crucial that you breathe correctly when you exercise. When you are doing aerobic activities, like swimming or running, or other types of exercise like strength training or bodyweight training, following the right breathing pattern will ensure that your working muscles and connective tissues get enough oxygen. Proper breathing also keeps your joints lubricated.

If you’re a beginner you may wonder why we are discussing breathing, since everybody knows that breathing is a natural process. Everybody breathes in and breathes out and it’s an involuntary function. However, you will understand what I am talking about once you start exercising.

People tend to make several breathing mistakes while they exercise, which include:

• Holding their breath.
• Taking shallow breaths.
• Breathing quickly.
• Breathing too deeply.
• Inhaling or exhaling at the incorrect time.

You’re probably wondering whether an incorrect breathing pattern affects your exercise. The answer is that it does. If you are not breathing properly, you will be able to finish the set, somehow, but it will adversely affect your movements, posture, coordination and the effect of the exercise on your muscles.

So, how does it work?
We all inhale and exhale, it doesn’t really require much of an effort. We simply take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. However, when you exercise, your heart beats faster and your working muscles require much more oxygen. Your brain senses this need and instructs the respiratory system to fulfill it, so you start breathing quicker as a result.

This whole process should be taken seriously because if you don’t breathe right, lack of oxygen can cause harmful effects, such as dizziness, headaches or fatigue.
If you have a habit of breathing only from your chest, then you are probably not using your lung capacity to its fullest. Most people use only 10-15 percent of their lung capacity while they are resting.

Importance Of Breathing

Here’s how to breathe correctly for every type of exercise:

During a cardio workout (or any other type of aerobic activity), your breathing tends to be involuntary. With this kind of exercise, your need for oxygen increases suddenly, so it is important that you use your lungs as much as possible. During a cardio workout, you should follow the diaphragmatic breathing technique, where you breathe from your belly, without letting your chest rise or fall. This is the best way to ensure the proper delivery of oxygen to your muscles during those intense moments of exercise.

Strength Training
When you are weight training, your breathing tends to be voluntary in nature. Many exercisers make the mistake of holding their breath while strength training. If the supply of oxygen to the working muscle gets interrupted, you probably won’t get the results you want. A sudden oxygen deficiency can cause fatigue and dizziness, and may affect your blood pressure as well. So you should never hold your breath while lifting.

The correct way to breathe during weight training is to exhale while pushing the weight away from your body and inhale while pulling it towards your body. You should always exhale when you are exerting energy.
If you’re a beginner, you may find it difficult to focus on your breathing along with the movements and posture. In this case, just make sure that you don’t hold your breath. Even if you don’t remember the pattern, just remember to keep breathing.

There is another breathing technique for strength trainers known as the Valsalva maneuver, where you hold your breath during a particular movement to be able to lift more weight or to hold a posture for little longer. I don’t personally advocate this technique as the interruption in oxygen supply can have adverse consequences.

People tend to hold their breath when they stretch, during both static and dynamic stretches. In fact, this tendency has been seen during extreme stretches with partner assistance (PNF stretching) as well. Holding your breath and squeezing your insides at the same time can affect the circulation of blood to your joints and cause an oxygen deficit that can make the stretch painful. You should follow the normal breathing pattern while stretching. It will improve your stretching experience and give you better results.

Yoga is a combination of postures, stretches and breathing patterns. It is important to follow the right inhalation and exhalation techniques while doing any yoga stretch. Learn to inhale deeply from your belly (diaphragmatic breathing). Deep breathing will increase your ability to concentrate as well.