You may be asking yourself why you need to improve your breathing. It’s a fair question. After all, at rest, you take 12 - 16 breaths per minute without even thinking about it. So just imagine what your breathing would be like if you were to start thinking about how you do it. Here you'll find 5 top tips to improve breathing.
Begin by breathing more deeply. Don’t breathe from your chest but from your abdomen instead; your diaphragm. Your diaphragm is your main breathing muscle. It’s the one you really need to think about utilising when you breathe.
Unlike diaphragmatic breathing, chest breathing means you’ll only be taking in shallow breaths. Consequently, it doesn’t provide your body with the amount of oxygen it needs to function properly. As a result, chest breathing will take a toll on your body. Unfortunately, many of us will be chest breathers, as we lead busy lives and are constantly in a state of flight or fight. In addition to the lifestyle we lead, we may also chest breathe because of a poor posture. In fact, because more of us are working on screens - from mobiles to desktops - 'screen-apnoea' is fast becoming a new world condition.
Screen apnoea, poor posture - in fact, many things, can result in poor breathing habits. But there are ways to improve your breathing.
Tips to improve breathing
- Use Google’s new 1-minute Breathing Exercise tool. Search for 'deep breathing' or 'breathing exercise(s)' to get a 1-minute guided mindfulness exercise to control your breathing.
- Exercise your breathing muscles with Inspiratory Muscle Training.
- Learn to sing! It’ll help you to control your breathing.
- Improve your posture. Stand up straight and draw your shoulders up, back and down.
- Exercise to a level where speaking becomes difficult. This will improve your body’s ability to use oxygen.
Your lungs and exercise
It is well known that being active is good for you. If performed on a regular basis, it will improve your quality of life. In fact, regular exercise will also help you maintain a healthy heart and a healthy weight. Consequently, regular exercise helps to reduce the risk of serious illness. Furthermore, it helps to keep your lungs healthy too.
The European Respiratory Society has a fact sheet, that is free for all, about how exercise affects your lungs. It also explains how breathing is influenced by activity. Finally, it discusses the benefits of exercise for people with and without a lung condition. It is called Your Lungs and Exercise.
Are you a chest breather?
Place your left hand on your chest. Now place your right hand on your abdomen. Breathe in and see which hand rises more. If it’s your right hand, you’re breathing using your diaphragm. However, if your left-hand rises more, you are breathing from your chest.
If you’re breathing using your diaphragm, then you’re breathing as nature intended. However, if you’re a chest breather, then you’re not pulling the air into the base of your lungs. Consequently, this shallow breathing will affect your health. It creates tension in your body that can lead to all sorts of everyday problems.
Whether you’re breathing from the diaphragm or chest, you will still benefit from exercising your breathing muscles. Training these muscles will improve their strength and stamina. In turn, it will reduce breathing fatigue and you’ll be able to do more, with less effort. So it’s definitely worth trying out our tips to improve breathing. Always check with a healthcare professional first, before starting any form of exercise.