The importance of breathing during workouts

At some point in your training you would have heard ‘remember to breathe’. This is an automatic response in our body, mind and daily lives, so we often forget to breathe when we put our body under stress, pressure or in an unfamiliar position.

When you exercise and your muscles work harder, your body uses more oxygen and produces more carbon dioxide. Your circulation also speeds up in order to transmit the oxygen to the muscles so that they can keep moving. When your lungs are healthy, you keep a large breathing reserve.

Proper breathing is essential during exercise. A good breathing pattern ensures that your working muscles will continue to receive the oxygen they need to keep contracting. Proper breathing is also central to nonaerobic forms of exercise, including weightlifting, yoga, tai chi and pilates. Lets break it down into the what, why and how so you can obtain a better understanding and some tips on how best to breathe during physical activity.

How Breathing Works

When you inhale, air is pulled into microscopic air sacs in the lungs called alveoli, here is where oxygen is delivered to red blood cells and carbon dioxide is transferred from the blood to the air in the alveoli. The oxygen-rich blood flows to your heart, which then pumps it out to your body. You exhale the carbon dioxide.

Breathing Naturally

The body is amazing! Your respitory system in the brain sends messages to your respiratory muscles, telling them when to breathe. This is automatic; you don't have to think about it. But when you exercise, your brain notes that there is an increase in carbon dioxide and lactic acid, a byproduct of exercising muscles, in your blood and tells your respiratory muscles to increase the speed and depth of your breaths so you can offload all the extra carbon dioxide and deliver additional oxygen to your working muscles.

The Pace of Your Breathing

Did you know you can determine your effort level during exercise by how hard you are breathing? For moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking, yoga & pilates you should be able to carry on a conversation. For vigorous-intensity exercise, such as jogging, running or heavy weights, you will be breathing faster but you still should be able to talk in short sentences or bursts. Athletes and those who are exercising near their maximum heart rate usually can't say more than a word or two because the breathing becomes so intense.

Meditative Breathing

Breathing patterns and techniques are central to the practice of yoga, tai chi and pilates. Yoga is not technically considered an aerobic exercise but many studies have shown regular practice can improve your strength and flexibility. Yoga's pranayama breathing technique - pranayama meaning ‘light force’ or ‘breath sustaning the body’ improves your immune system and helps with hypertension, asthma and stress.

Breathing Techniques

You may already be familiar with some basic breathing techniques while working out, but in case you are not, here are some walk throughs to get you started.

Breathe In - Breathe Out

The most common breathing “technique” for working out is to, “Breathe IN on the way down (contraction), and breathe OUT on the way, or the pushing phase (extension).” For one example let's look at a body squat. This technique would have us breathe in before we lower (contraction) our body to the ground, and then exhale as we push (extension) through the heels to stand. Then repeat.

Belly Breathing

Otherwise known as abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing. Belly breathing is when you breathe in slowly through your nose and start to feel your belly puff out. Belly breathing pulls more oxygen deeper into your lungs than chest breathing.


Breathing is part of the exercise process and a huge factor in performance, both internally and externally.

Focusing on and purposefully using your breath during exercise will get your body back on track and to a normal state quicker by lowering heart rate, increasing blood flow, increasing oxygen intake, stregthening posture and aligning your body and mind.

Gain control of your breathing pattern and focus on pulling as much air deep into your lungs as possible to get the highest benefit out of your daily movement.

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