You probably heard that breathing is important during exercise. Maybe your aerobics instructor cued you to breathe or your karate instructor told you to exhale as you kick or your yoga teacher wanted you to breathe into a stretch. Maybe you are thinking it’s a bunch of hogwash and of course you’re breathing or you wouldn’t be exercising, you’d be dead…So why all the reminders?
Breathing correctly not only ensures you can get a better workout, but keeps you safe too. If you hold your breath during exercise or breathe too rapidly, you can suffer ill effects.
If you hold your breath while exerting yourself in weightlifting, doing abdominal exercises (your bodyweight) or just shoveling snow and other strenuous activities, even healthy individuals can possibly experience slowed heart rate, dizziness, or even fainting. Those predisposed to heart disease could experience irregular heart rhythms and more serious consequences…all because of the changes inside the body which can interrupt blood flow. To avoid this issue, breathe in and out at a normal pace. Exhale when lifting the weight (contracting the muscle) or exerting yourself and inhale when at rest or releasing the weight.
On the flip side, I have sometimes see individuals or even fitness instructors breath too heavily or cue breathing every few seconds and normally conditioned people could get dizzy or have other consequences of over- ventilating. Keep in mind when an instructor asks that you breathe into a stretch for instance, this is an indication that you should relax into the stretch, not hyperventilate…breathing slowly and exhaling while deepening the stretch is common in yoga.
Breathing can also be used to assess how hard you are working. For instance the talk but not sing test is a good indication your breathing is right on track for a moderate exertion level. If you can carry on a conversation with ease, or sing well, you are not working hard enough but if you are working so hard you cannot catch your breath you may be working too hard.
If you experience shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, chest pain and/or coughing, you should consult your Dr. These may be symptoms of exercise-induced asthma.
Take a deep breath, now exhale. Feel less stressed? Not yet? Then go work out.