Breathe better and get fitter

Breathlessness is a common feature of lung and heart disease, but as we know all too well, it’s also a feature of normal exercise. Research has shown that the strength of the inspiratory muscles has a direct influence on how hard we can breathe and how breathless we feel whilst doing it.

If the muscles are weakened or fatigued (inspiratory muscles can fatigue by as much as 20%) then we can’t breathe as hard and breathing requires greater effort; we experience the effort as breathlessness.

Think about how much heavier a dummbbell feels on the 12th repetition than it did on the first. In the same way, if the inspiratory muscles are weakened or fatigued, breathing feels harder.

All is not lost though. POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training will help as it exercises your breathing muscles to make them stronger and more resistant to fatigue! And because your breathing stamina increases, your sports performance will improve and you’ll be able to exercise for longer with less effort.

Inspiratory Muscle Training Improves Shuttle Run Performance in Healthy Subjects

“The purpose of this study was to assess the use of computer-generated fixed-load incremental Respiratory Muscle Training (RMT) produced by the performance of repeated sustained sub-maximal inspiratory efforts with progressively reduced recovery times in healthy volunteers.”

Conclusion:

“Incremental respiratory endurance-based respiratory muscle training set at 80% of peak through range increases respiratory muscle strength, single-breath work capacity and respiratory muscle endurance and that these improvements result in reduced levels of breathlessness, an increase in predicted VO2 max and a perceived improvement in sports performance.”

Read Inspiratory Muscle Training Improves Shuttle Run Performance in Healthy Subjects >

Effect Of Specific Inspiratory Muscle Warm-Up On intense Intermittent Run To Exhaustion

“In this test the effects of inspiratory muscle warm-up on the maximum dynamic inspiratory muscle function and the maximum repetitions of 20-m shuttle run in the Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test were examined.”

Conclusion:

“Findings suggested that the specific inspiratory muscle warm-up may entail reduction in breathlessness sensation, partly attributable to the enhancement of dynamic inspiratory muscle functions, in subsequent exhaustive intermittent run and, in turn, improve the exercise tolerance.”

Read Effect of specific inspiratory muscle warm-up on intense intermittent run to exhaustion >

The Telegraph – Do breathing exercises help with long-term asthma?

POWERbreathe MedicThe Telegraph online lifecoaches looked at health tips for long-term asthma sufferers.

The question of how effective breathing exercises would be for long-term asthma sufferers was raised and it was suggested that some people have found the Buteyko breathing technique helpful in reducing the level of symptoms.

For those asthma sufferers whose symptoms may be brought on by exercise, our very own POWERbreathe was suggested as a way of preventing this by exercising the inspiratory muscles (your breathing muscles) to reduce breathlessness.

If you have asthma and are using the POWERbreathe Medic or another POWERbreathe model to help relieve your asthma symptoms then we’d love to hear from you and share your experience with others. Please simply leave a comment here. Thank you.

Breathing training exercises

Breathing is an instinctive bodily process that we do literally without thinking, and it’s critical to humans staying alive and functioning properly. Breathing allows us to bring oxygen into the body and use it as energy. But as simple as this process is, there are several ways it can become less efficient for our bodies. Sleep apnoea results in reduced or inconsistent oxygen flow while we are sleeping, and even breathing during the day can be improved for many individuals just by following some simple breathing training techniques. While the way most people breathe is good enough to maintain life, there are breathing training exercises that you can do to develop a more efficient breathing pattern.

Use breathing training to facilitate proper breathing while you are awake. Simple exercises can help instil habits that can carry through your entire day.  One good breathing training exercise is to lay down flat on the floor and place a book on your stomach. Inhale deeply and fill the stomach, causing the book on your abdomen to rise in the air. Exhale and watch the book drop. Once you have done this a few times, remove the book, sit up and repeat this breathing exercise, filling the stomach on the inhale and pushing air out on the exhale. Doing this simple breathing exercise can significantly improve daily breathing when you take three deep breaths during breaks several times throughout the day.

Another breathing technique that can facilitate your breathing pattern is to slow your breathing down and deepen your breaths. Improved breathing can have effects that will overlap into other aspects of your health.  By doing deep breathing exercises throughout the day you can reduce your body’s stress levels, which then enable you to free your body and mind for more interesting pursuits.

If you regularly visit the gym or exercise frequently running, rowing or cycling, then it is important that you maintain normal breathing, particularly if your training involves lifting. When people lift a heavy object, natural instinct tells them to hold their breath. By doing this you are exposing yourself to increased risk of injury as you are placing unnecessary stress on your muscles, particularly the torso muscles. Always breathe regularly to provide the right amount of oxygen to your body when exercising or training. Try and maintain deep, slow breathing as much as possible to keep your body calm and oxygen intake efficient.

Respiratory Benefits

If you experience chest pains or feel tightness in the chest, proper breathing can help eliminate these. Simple breathing training reduces the muscle tension that is one of the causes that contribute to a heart attack.

Proper breathing can help eliminate chest pains if you are experiencing muscle tightness. This reduces the muscle tension that can sometimes contribute to heart attacks. Deep breathing can improve respiratory problems like bronchitis and asthma, according to Breathing.com. Breathing also helps eliminate waste matter–a sizable percentage of your body’s waste is exhaled through the lungs.

Heart and Circulation Benefits

Better breathing exercises can improve your body’s circulation while increasing oxygen and other nutrients to the body, particularly to organs like the brain, eyes and other parts. The increased flow of oxygen into the bloodstream reduces the workload on the heart, since it has to pump blood less frequently to provide oxygen to the muscles, bones and organs. The skin can benefit through the improved circulation, since increased blood flow will provide more nutrients and oxygen to the skin and help maintain its radiance.

Reducing breathlessness isn’t as difficult as you may think. The next time you feel that your breathing is causing you discomfort, try some breathing exercises to see if your breathing improves.

COPD and coping with breathlessness

COPD-And-BreathlessnessThe full term for COPD is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. COPD as it is known is two long term lung diseases – chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Anyone who suffers from COPD knows the disease makes it extremely difficult for you to breathe. COPD has no cure. However, taking certain measures can help you manage the disease.

 

Here are some COPD facts about living with COPD, the symptoms of this lung disorder, how you can treat it and what causes it.

If I have COPD how does that affect my lungs

Air is carried in and out of your lungs through tubes called airways.  The earliest tell-tale sign of COPD is when these airways become partially blocked from swelling or mucus build up. This will result in you finding it difficult to breathe.  At the end of the airways are many tiny balloon-like air sacs, which inflate and deflate when you breathe in and out. With COPD, these air sacs lose their elasticity. If this happens it can lead to the collapse of small airways and make it more difficult for you to breathe easily.

What causes COPD

The most common cause of COPD is smoking. The disease will progress much quicker in smokers. Passive smoking is also a cause of COPD.  Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can also be caused by long term exposure to other irritants. These include:

  • Dust
  • Chemicals
  • Air pollution

How COPD is diagnosed

If you think you have COPD you need to seek medical advice. Your GP will check your medical history, take a physical examination and also run some breathing tests.

The first breathing test the GP will run to check if you have COPD is the spirometry test. This is a painless and simple test which involves you breathing into a hose which is connected to a spirometer machine.  This machine then measures how much air your lungs can hold as well as measure how quick you can blow air out of your lungs.

What are the signs and symptoms of COPD?

The most common symptoms of COPD are:

  • A continuous cough that does not disappear
  • Huge amounts of mucus when you cough
  • Shortness of breath at the sign of activity
  • Wheezing
  • A tightness in the chest

COPD treatment

COPD treatment is not a cure. The goal is to ease your symptoms and make your quality of life better. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease treatment will slow down the progression of the disease, prevent or treat any complications and help you breathe more easily. Part of your COPD treatment will be a serious of breathing exercises which will help you to cope with the illness you have.

Breathlessness and breathing difficulties when swimming

One of the best forms of exercises to improve and maintain your fitness levels is swimming. However swimming requires good breathing techniques and an overall efficient lung function. Breathlessness and breathing difficulties occur in swimming at different stages in your life. Breathing problems also have different fitness and health implications that depend on your age and swimming ability.

Basics of breathing

So here is the science. Water is much denser than air which means your chest will be somewhat compressed. To overcome this you need to consciously exhale while under water. You may have a feeling of panic as you may feel constraint while under water but this will pass as you become more confident and you will lessen the likelihood of hyperventilating or holding your breath as a reaction to stress.  By blowing out in the water slowly, immediately after inhaling gives you some sense of control.  By regulating your breathing pattern you will ensure a steady supply of oxygen. This is critical for aerobic metabolism.

Technique-Related Problems

To be able to breathe with ease while in the swimming pool, you need to improve your stroke and breathing technique. This is done by rotating your body in the direction you intend to breathe. By doing this it means your head is in the right position to take a breath – just above the surface of the water.  Do not make the mistake of straining to lift your head out of the water or wait to exhale just before taking a breath in as this will tire you and cause you difficulty taking a full breath. It is also critical that you time your breathing correctly especially if you are swimming freestyle. The correct technique is to take your breath just as your stroke arm leaves the water at your hip.

Fitness-Related Problems

Difficulty catching your breath after a particularly intense set might only mean you need better conditioning. Hypoxic or breath-control training is helpful for the younger racers who are training to withstand race conditions, but the benefits are not so clear for older swimmers. Increased lung function, comes with steady and continued workouts.

Health-Related Problems

Asthma is another respiratory condition which makes breathing difficult. Exercise-induced asthma can result from an aggravation of an existing condition or from sensitivity to the chemicals used in, and produced by, the pool disinfection process. Cardiovascular problems also cause feelings of breathlessness and shortness of breath. Lung damage due to smoking is another cause of having difficulty breathing while swimming. Anaemia caused by vitamin deficiency and other conditions can also result in you having difficulty breathing or getting enough air into the lungs. If you do suffer from respiratory conditions then it is important to learn how to breathe correctly while swimming otherwise it will be a constant struggle.

 

How to breathe when you are short of breath

Short of breath is also known as suffering from dyspnoea or suffering from breathing difficulties. In fact if you suffer from any respiratory condition you are more than likely to be short of breath.  Being short of breath can have serious repercussions for your health if not addressed.  Not everyone knows or recognises the symptoms of a person suffering from shortness of breath, so here are the common signs and symptoms:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Breathing through pursed lips
  • Constant feeling of being winded or unable to speak
  • Sitting down with hands on your knees
  • Using chest and neck muscles to breathe

However, adopting some breathing techniques can help you breathe more efficiently. One of the most common breathing exercises is breathing through pursed lips.  When breathing through pursed lips you are using less energy to breathe and you can relax too.  If you are short of breath, pursed lip breathing helps you slow down the pace of your breathing making you feel less short of breath.

If you do any activity that makes you short of breath you should always use pursed lip breathing. These activities include:

  • Exercising
  • Bending
  • Lifting
  • Climbing stairs

Pursed lip breathing should be practised frequently and can be done anywhere at any time.  However, try and practice the technique at least 4-5 times a day particularly when you are:

  • Watching television
  • Using your computer
  • Reading a book or magazine

How do I practice pursed lip breathing

Pursed lip breathing is very simple to do and requires little or no effort.  However, you need to be totally relaxed, especially your neck and shoulder muscles. You also need to be sitting comfortably in a chair with your feet firmly on the ground.  So, here are the steps in order:

  1. Breathe in (inhale) very slowly through your nose for two counts.
  2. As you breathe in you should feel your tummy get tighter.
  3. Pucker your lips as though you are going to blow or whistle.
  4. Breathe out (exhale) slowly through your lips for four or more counts.

It is important you should exhale normally and do not force the air out.  It is equally important that you do not hold your breath when you are practising pursed lip breathing.  These steps should be repeated until your breathing slows down. Pursed lip breathing is great for people who suffer from short of breath symptoms and for people with respiratory conditions.