Proper Breathing During Exercise

Written by: Paul Hodges, General Manager @ O2 Brennan

I received an email from an member who was having a difficult time with a shortness of breath on one of the stationary bikes, during my RPM class a few weeks ago. His breathing patterns were so erratic that he was basically exhausting himself before our 30 second sprints were even applied in one of the tracks, causing him to be fatigued. I instructed him to concentrate only on his breathing, making sure to enhale through the nose and exhale out the mouth, all while keeping his chest open and head up at all time. Not only was he was able to perform better in the sprint on the bike,  but he had more energy to finish. And then I began to think of all the times that we exercise in our environments, and how often we forget about the importance of breathing in our performance. Learning to breathe during exercise has benefits such as preventing dizziness during activity, improving athletic performance, and increasing fat burning.

Like many individuals who prefer more high impact cardiovascular activities, such as running, requires a 3:2 inhale-to-exhale ratio; full inhales and full exhales, allowing us to fully oxygenate the muscles and clear the body of carbon dioxide. This pattern is not that hard to turn into a habit, but it may require you to slow your pace down for a few runs to master the technique. You will notice a lower heart rate as you are able to get more oxygen in and more importantly push all the carbon dioxide out of your body. The CO2 in your body will increase if your breathing patterns are short and hurried. This will increase your heart rate and lactic acid production, and decrease your endurance in any cardiovascular event (running, swimming, biking, etc.)

Proper breathing during exercises where you exert yourself – such as lifting, pushing, or pulling – is much easier to remember and control than running. Remember to always exhale on exertion. For example, 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 pullup, you exhale on the pulling up motion and inhale on the way down. Breathing during exertion is important in preventing internal injury such as hernia, blood vessel strain, and high blood pressure.

We all know that our bodies need water, but water combined with increased oxygen allows us to burn fat as an energy source. The water intake should be anywhere from a half gallon for women and up to one gallon a day for men, and the increased oxygen consumption will assist with the other part of the equation. As you add more water and oxygen to your system, your body will be able to use the retained water for excretion, prompting almost immediate weight loss of retained water and toxins. Adding water will also rehydrate you and enable the body to burn more fat (as long as you increase your oxygen intake by doing some form of exercise). Walking, swimming, biking, jogging, calisthenics, and even yard work can help with working your cardiovascular system.
Try the deep breathing rhythm during running and see for yourself how you will run at a lower heart rate and have more energy for a strong finish.

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