Why Are Deep Breathing Exercises Good For You?
Obviously, breathing is very important, giving us life.
It’s something we can all take for granted but spending a few minutes a day on deep breathing exercises can help in more ways than just keeping our bodies ticking over.
In order to see how deep breathing exercises can be good for you, it’s helpful to see what altered or shallow breathing can do to the body. Changes in breathing can cause:
- shortness of breath
To name a few.
Taking a deep breath is a known way to help relaxation. Did you know, however, that deep breathing can do much more than just calm you down?
The true benefits of deep breathing exercises run much deeper, as we’ll explain below. We’ll also explain the term “altered breathing” and how it impairs optimal health along with how to practice ‘belly breathing’.
How Deep Breathing Affects the Body
Breathing gives us life.
It can also affect other things, such as:
- Improving fatigue
- Improving concentration
- Decreasing heart rate
- Making you feel calmer
- Reducing stress
Below we’ve gone into a bit more detail on how breathing can cause some of these changes:
Deep breathing (drawn in breaths longer than your normal inhalations and exhalations) stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. This is a shorthand explanation, for the mechanism behind this is quite complex.
The parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for relaxation) is engaged at a deeper level when you take deeper breaths.
On the other hand, the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for stimulation of the central nervous system) is activated less than normal.
Reduced blood pressure
Through a similar mechanism as above, blood pressure is also found to fall.
It’s this relaxing mechanism that widens blood vessels, reducing tension on them and subsequently lowering blood pressure.
These two benefits are just a couple of many.
What’s the opposite (and harmful) form of breathing?
Altered breathing is a relatively broad term. It encompasses a range of impaired breathing patterns, which conditions like chronic anxiety can cause.
Breathing in most cases is characterized by overly shallow breaths.
Changes in breathing patterns can happen over a long time and so not be noticed by the individual. However, if the symptoms come on quite suddenly, it can be an indication of serious conditions, such as blood clots, asthma attacks or diabetic ketoacidosis. In these cases, contact emergency services for help.
In this article, we’re talking about the changes that occur over a long time rather than any sudden changes.
Okay, so what deep breathing can you do on your own?
Diaphragmatic (Belly) Breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, is the most efficient and healthy way to breathe.
If done properly, belly breathing can strengthen the diaphragm, decrease the work-induced on your body by normal breathing, and decrease your body’s normal oxygen demand.
In our clinic, we tend to find a lot of people hold tension around their neck and shoulders. In addition to this, their breathing pattern is altered as they’re using these neck muscles to help them breathe. Normally, these muscles are there to help get a deep breath in after a hard workout, and they shouldn’t be working at rest. This over-work of the neck muscles can add to the symptoms and tension around the neck and shoulders, causing pain.
Here’s how to practice belly breathing:
- This can be done anywhere, but if you’re starting out it’s easiest if you lie flat on your back, bend your knees, and make sure you have proper head support.
- Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, just below the ribcage.
- Breathe slowly through your nose so your stomach moves against your hand; keep your hand that’s on your chest as still as you can keep it.
- Slowly exhale.
- Repeat 4-5 times before going back to normal breathing
If you want to try this in standing or sitting:
- Place your hands on the lower part of your ribcage
- As you take a breath in, your lower ribcage will expand and so move your hands outwards
- As you exhale, your hands and ribs will return to the starting position
This is something that will take a bit of time and effort to master. Especially if you’ve spent years breathing with your upper respiratory muscles (neck muscles). The more you’re able to practice or take note of how you’re breathing through the day, the quicker you’ll notice the benefits.
Practicing Yoga and Pilates will help you work on improving your breathing.
Trying out different exercises is key to improving and maintaining the body’s flexibility, which in turn can help with recruiting muscles efficiently.
If you’ve got any questions on the above, then please let us know (click for contact details).
Remember – Listen to Your Body!
Please remember to listen to your body. Get any aches and pains checked out sooner rather than later.
As with all information given for exercises and exercise programs, when using our exercise videos or information, please use your common sense and don’t do anything that will hurt you. By performing any fitness exercises, you are performing them at your own risk. PhysioFit Health will not be responsible or liable for any injury or harm you sustain as a result of information shared on our website or YouTube channel. This includes emails, videos, and text. Thanks for your understanding.