Breathing for Health & Performance

Do you know if you are breathing properly to optimize your health and your performance goals?

Breathing has a significant effect not only on your current state of mind, but also on your body’s physiology, and both musculoskeletal and neuromuscular efficiency.

Breathe through your nose

Except for high-intensity anaerobic conditions, breathing through the nose is the proper way to breathe. Nasal breathing filters, warms, and humidifies the air, which helps your immune system. It also reduces excessive loss of CO2 and releases nitric oxide, which causes vasodilation and helps your tissues absorb oxygen so you have more energy. Nasal breathing additionally helps to maintain parasympathetic tone (the rest and digest state) and helps avoid too much sympathetic tone (the stress or fight-flight-freeze state).

Proper Breathing

  1. Inhale through your nose (mouth closed with a relaxed jaw and tongue).
  2. As you inhale, your abdomen and lower ribs should start to expand in a 360° pattern (out and apart).
  3. The middle area of the ribs and lungs are filled next, followed by the upper area, which lifts the chest at the end of your inhale.
  4. Exhale through your nose as you first deflate the lower chest cavity, followed by the middle chest cavity, and then the upper chest cavity

Increase your energy

Being able to tune into and manipulate your breath provides you with a direct mechanism to create energy and efficiently dispose of waste or CO2. Exhaling too often leads to excessive loss of CO2, which results in the body having less oxygen available for energy. This is a common situation with mouth breathing.

To better understand your CO2 tolerance, you can perform an easy test. Once you gain a better understanding, you can then train your body by practicing breathing exercises.

CO2 Tolerance Test

For this test, you will need a stopwatch or a timer on your phone.

  1. Take 3 normal breaths through your nose.
  2. Inhale once again and exhale as slowly as possible, without holding your breath.
  3. Compare your exhale time to the scores below. This is your baseline score. –
  4. Perform a reassessment after practicing the 4-4-7 breathing exercise.
  5. Try to increase your exhale time as you learn to improve your breathing technique.

CO2 Tolerance Exhale Test Scores

  • Elite / Excellent = 80+ seconds
  • Advanced / Very Good = 60-80 seconds
  • Intermediate / Good = 40-60 seconds
  • Average / Normal = 20-40 seconds
  • Poor = less than 20 seconds

Control your stress

Respiration is the primary regulator of all metabolic function in the body,
and it’s the way your body regulates the disruption of homeostasis – or stress. With proper breathing, you have the ability to consciously override your body’s reaction to stress and redirect it toward the desired outcome.

There are many muscles that assist with breathing, however, the primary muscles that help you breathe are the diaphragm and the intercostals. The diaphragm attaches to the bottom of the ribs and moves the ribcage down and out when you inhale. The intercostal muscles run between the ribs and help expand and contract your ribs.

Nasal breathing exercises

To help increase your energy, reduce stress, and build your capacity for oxygen and carbon dioxide, try this nasal breathing exercise. It will help improve your aerobic efficiency.

If this is a new breathing exercise for you, start with a few minutes of practice and gradually build up to 5 minutes or more. This is a great exercise to do before and after your workouts.

4-4-7 Breathing

  1. Inhale for 4 seconds
  2. Hold for 4 seconds
  3. Slowly exhale for 7 seconds (or longer, if you can)

Written by PRO Club

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