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How Breathing Can Help You Achieve Your Fitness and Weight Loss Goals

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How Breathing Can Help You Achieve Your Fitness and Weight Loss Goals

How Breathing Can Help You Achieve Your Fitness and Weight Loss Goals

 

“Just take a deep breath in”. 

 

We have heard this throughout our whole lives, whether at the doctor’s office, the moment before a big exam or other stressful situations, or when we are huffing and puffing after a tough workout. The phrase comes as no surprise as full, deep breaths can help you feel calmer and more relaxed. But our breath also has the ability to transform our performance both in and out of the gym.

 

Breathing, or respiratory, muscle training has been shown to be an effective tool in improving performance. ¹ For athletes, their breath could almost be viewed as a secret weapon if utilized properly during training.

 

Whether you use breathwork and breathing exercises for stress management and mental wellness, or you focus on diaphragmatic breathing during your strenuous workouts, you are sure to reap the benefits.

 

Breakdown of Breathing Mechanics

 

To really understand how breathing can boost the results of your workouts and help you hit your fitness and/or your weight loss goals, we need to break down what is happening as we breathe.

 

Our diaphragm is our primary breathing muscle. It is the one responsible for breathing at rest. Next, our abdominal muscles engage to help increase our oxygen intake. Lastly, our accessory breathing muscles, the muscles of our chest and neck begin to help expand our ribs and lungs even more.

 

Most of us sitting here, reading this post may only be breathing through our chest, utilizing only the upper portion of our lungs. So many of us are accustomed to this style of breathing.

 

No wonder we live in a state of constant stress, high alert, and tension!

 

What do we mean by this?

 

Pause for a moment.

Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.

Breathe in as you normally would, what do you feel?

 

If your chest rises first, you could benefit from working on your breathing mechanics. If your belly rises first, you are on the right track!

 

If you felt your chest rise first, can you instead allow your belly to rise first, expanding your rib cage, using the full capacity of your lungs?

 

Doesn’t that feel relaxing?

 

Even sitting here at rest, we should be focusing on breathing through our bellies first, before our chest. Then, as we begin to workout at higher and higher intensities, our accessory breathing muscles, the muscles of our neck and chest can then begin to engage to help increase our oxygen uptake.

 

Now that you know how to properly breathe, you can now use this basic concept for both focus and performance during your workouts at the gym.

 

Breathing for Performance

 

As we breathe into our abdomen, we are taking in more oxygen that is ultimately transported by our red blood cells to our working muscles. And with this increase in oxygen, we are also able to deliver more to our brain and autonomic nervous system, signaling our parasympathetic nervous system to lower our heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.

 

That alone is enough to boost performance.

 

However, if you continuously practice this way of breathing while performing strength training, kickboxing, or any other exercises at the gym, you will begin to note an increase in the strength of your breathing muscles while improving endurance exercise and sports performance. ¹

 

Your diaphragm and all of the other muscles that assist in breathing can be trained just like your biceps and quadriceps!

 

The most up to date evidence also states that breathing can help improve performance by: ¹ ²

 

    Decreasing the rating of perceived breathlessness or exertion;

    Improving breathing economy;

    Reducing the work of breathing;

    Improving respiratory muscle endurance; and

    Mediating the nervous system’s sympathetic response to exercise.

 

Being able to tap into your full lung capacity by expanding your diaphragm and rib cage, increases gives you more strength, endurance, allowing you to stay strong and avoid fatigue. ³

 

Breathing for Relaxation

 

Breathing patterns are not only important in the gym but throughout your day-to-day life. It can help improve your stress levels, bring upon more focus and clarity, and can almost act as a type of mediation for many.

 

Unfortunately, deep breathing goes against all of the natural instincts that come with stress. When we feel stressed, we tend to tighten our muscles, including bracing our core, tensing our neck and shoulders, and relying on the chest to breathe. This can be bad enough in some cases to even make someone feel as though they are short of breath.

 

But practicing, even just a few minutes of deep, belly breathing, as described above, encourages relaxation, decreases tension, and allows more oxygen to flow through the body. With this comes lowered heart rate, blood pressure, and sympathetic nervous system output, allowing you to stay better focused on your goals and the task at hand.

 

Letting you push just a little bit harder or a little bit longer than planned.

 

Whether your goal is to get in shape, lose weight, improve your strength, or pick up a new fitness routine such as kickboxing, your breath, something that should come so naturally, may actually be the component that can make the difference between mediocrity and greatness.

 

It is time to see what breathing can do for you.

 

 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6105530/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3804987/
https://www-posturalrestoration-com-files.s3.amazonaws.com/2367-31675367-Breathing%20Patterns%20and%20Performance(Steve%20Cuddy%20Weightlifting).pdf?versionId=6SfMiKveUUxY95LKO504zQZSr0NwS3c6


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