The earlier blog post “Best of the breaths” discussed the basics of breathing correctly as you go about your daily routine. This article will look at breathing during physical activities such as brisk walking and jogging which may leave some people out of breath after a while. Some take quick and shallow breaths while others go for slower and deeper ones. Unsurprisingly, health and fitness instructors typically start their lessons by reminding their classes on the importance of proper breathing as it affects energy levels, metabolism rate, helps prevent side stitches and improve the overall effectiveness of the workout sessions.
Not breathing correctly during workouts could lead to insufficient intake of oxygen which in turn causes a person to experience breathlessness, headaches and dizziness. If left unchecked, it could lead to unwanted incidents such as fainting or falling off the treadmill, resulting in injuries. As to the perennial poser whether to breathe through the nose or mouth – or combining the two methods – when exercising, the consensus from experts is that it is a matter of individual preference.
Breathing expert and author of Breathe Strong Perform Better, Alison McConnell, advises mouth breathing during exercise as “this is the route of least resistance [and] breathing through the nose just makes it needlessly hard.” The other school of breath, however, argues that nose breathing has its own advantages such as warming the air before it enters the lungs, reducing allergen intake and higher saturation of carbon dioxide in the blood which induces a calming effect to the exerciser. So test the airways and use the method you’re most comfortable with when you’re working out.
Don't hold your breath
While it is hard to believe, some people do hold their breath when they are exercising, either due to habit, ignorance or conviction that it helps them to focus better or run faster. There are several reasons why depriving your body of air during exercise is just plain bad and wrong. First, it is the time when you need oxygen the most and holding your breath will increase the carbon dioxide in your body, causing it to fatigue faster. Also, when you are working out, your body will take oxygenated blood from the unused organs – except from the heart or brain - to “ventilate” the muscles that are working. To achieve this, the heart will beat faster thus increasing the risk of damaging itself.
Know your safe heart rate
It is crucial that exercisers keep their heart rate within their safe heartbeat range to safeguard their health and protect their lives. To calculate your maximum heart rate, deduct your age from the number 220. However, you should not exercise at the maximum possible rate but rather at a safe percentage of this rate. Commonly referred to as the target heart rate, the recommended level for casual exercisers is 50 to 60% of maximum and up to 85% for seasoned folks.
Breathing, in the words of Joseph Pilates – founder of the Pilates method of physical fitness – “is the first act of life, and the last”. Like sucking milk, it is an automatic process pre-programmed by nature to ensure the survival of its creatures. Breathing is essential for life as it is how we get oxygen into our body as well as remove the toxic carbon dioxide from it. But did you know that there are breathing ‘best practices’ that can do wonders for your health and well-being? Every breath you take, if done properly, can boost energy, relieve pain, improve your mental and emotional states, and become an effective tool to manage stress and anxiety.
Nose not mouth
While breathing in and out through the nose may sound obvious, many people unconsciously breathe through their mouths. Ensure that your mouth is closed so that the air passes through the nose and is filtered, heated and humidified. The inhaled air then goes into your blood and is circulated throughout your entire body via the red blood cells. It is then utilized by the cells to release energy stored in our food, enabling them to perform their respective functions and processes. How long can someone go without air? Four minutes sans oxygen can lead to permanent brain damage while death can result within ten minutes.
Stop chest breathing
This is the most important part of breathing and yet many are not doing it right because of the tendency to use the chest muscles to breathe. Chest breathing (also referred to as shallow breathing) is an inefficient method of breathing as it produces rapid and shallow breaths, and consequently delivers insufficient air to the lungs to oxygenate the blood. The shorter intervals between breaths also mean lesser time for the carbon dioxide in the blood to exit from the body. In short, chest breathing can lead to shortness of breath, light-headedness, fatigue, heart palpitations and even hyperventilation.
Relax – abdominal breathing (also known as diaphragm breathing) is not a new thing; you did it naturally as a baby and are still doing it now - when you are sleeping. So have faith and confidence that if you can do it with eyes closed, what more when you are awake, right? You can start right away by lying flat on the floor with one hand placed on the upper abdomen and the other on your upper chest. Take slow, regular breaths, and ensure that only the hand on your abdomen moves. Don’t fret if there’s some movement in your chest. Practice this for a few minutes daily and over time abdominal breathing will come naturally to you.
Make every breath count
Breathing from the abdomen is best because blood in the lowest part of the lungs is richest in oxygen. This will facilitate several health-enhancing processes such as releasing endorphins (the body’s natural pain killers), improving metabolism and detoxifying the body of toxic poisons. Slow and deep breaths also increase oxygen supply to the blood, rejuvenating the skin to give it a natural and radiant glow. According to the book Breath in Action, proper breathing can be the best preventative treatment for health issues such as asthma and hypertension. We take about 18 breaths per minute, 1,080 in an hour and 25,920 in a day. Think of each as more than just a life-giver but also a health-booster and identity-shaper. In the words of Jane Boston, one the book’s co-editors: "Breathing properly helps to keep the mind open, enabling you to think about who you are and what and why you're doing something.”
In the bestseller The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, the book’s protagonist hotshot lawyer-turned-monk declared: There is only one thing that we have absolute dominion over – our minds. How the mind influences the body continues to fascinate research scientists. But unlike physical health that is more definitive in the qualifying parameters and medicinal prescriptions, mental health has a wider spectrum of indicators. According to the World Health Organization, mental health is a state of well-being in which people realize their own potential, able to cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and make a contribution to society. Other experts simply refer to it as “all about how we think, feel and behave.”
Rest and relax
Anytime you’re feeling tense or stressed, why not try this simple technique taught at the Benson-Henry Institute at the Massachusetts, a global leader in the mind-body medicine research. First, sit quietly in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Relax your muscles – calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head and neck. Think of a meaningful word, phrase, sound or prayer – and concentrate on it. Breathe slowly and naturally, say your focus word silently as you exhale. Rely on your focus word to remove other invading and disruptive thoughts. Continue the exercise for 10 to 20 minutes. Once you’ve completed the exercise, remain still for a while, let other thoughts return and open your eyes. Do this twice daily, preferably before breakfast and dinner.
Writing in The Atlantic in 1862, American author Henry David Thoreau extolled the virtues of walking in untamed natural surroundings, "I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least, sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements." So if you have to bring your mobile phone, use it only if you really have to – like calling for help in case of emergency. Research by psychologists supports Thoreau’s belief that exposure to nature helps to reduce stress and boost well-being. In fact, a new research in America shows that the closer you can live to trees, the better your chances of living longer, healthier and happier lives.
A time for you
If you’ve taken a flight before, you’d be familiar with the reminder from the cabin crew during an emergency – put on your oxygen mask first before attending to others, especially children. Likewise in everyday living, you need to set aside some personal time to do things that you enjoy - jog, watch a movie, read, listen to some music, anything you fancy – to unwind and relax. Experts agree in the basic psychological and physical benefits of taking some “me time”: you’ll feel refreshed and happier - even if it’s just 15 to 30 minutes every day. A stay-at-home mum recounted her husband’s banishing her every night to their room once he was back from the office to let her rest and recover from the daily grind, “It certainly helped me maintain my sanity and recharge the body’s batteries.”
How’s your mental health?
Having a good mental health is more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological problems; not feeling bad does not mean that you’re feeling good. Rather, being mentally healthy refers to the presence of several positive traits such as contentment, zest for life, able to laugh and have fun, and possessing resilience – the ability to bounce back from adversity, trauma, and stress. Some signs that all are not well in your mind include experiencing bouts of depression, anxiety attacks, frequent changes in mood, erratic thinking and impulsive actions. If you’re experiencing any of the indicators mentioned, it’s time to ask yourself: when was the last you had a really good “me time”?
If you want to improve your mood, act upon the stress, or feel greater with your body, the best thing you could do is start an appropriate exercise plan.
Say for example you are constantly feeling angry or irritated, you might want to consider kickboxing, boxing, or martial arts. This can be done by either following an instructional video or enrolling yourself in a class in your nearest gym. You will feel the anger slipping away with every punch and kick. These forms of exercise will somehow let off some steam in that ‘hot’ head of yours without hurting anyone but the punching bag (or just merely the air). This also helps you burn calories and stay fit. Choosing martial arts will also help you gain more confidence and discipline, and you might even lose the ability to get angry ever again.
Another form of exercise you can opt for is taking a spinning class or step aerobics. Exercising while listening to good music will allow you to have fun and get a good workout. You will be surprised how quickly the class will go by. Step aerobics is very versatile and is a great exercise for those who are easily bored. You’ll make the boredom disappear because you have to concentrate on the choreography. You will feel really accomplished and energetic when the exercise is over.
Aerobics is also good for those who are in the risk or are already experiencing high blood pressure.
If you are feeling lonely, don’t feel sorry for yourself and make it worse. Go on a group fitness class. Following the same routine with more people and socializing with the people exercising with you will make you feel like you are a part of something. Although exercising is more about getting fit or losing weight, one of the more important things of this fitness class is that you will get the social support you need in a friendly environment with people who share your interests.
Loneliness is one thing and depression is another – and there’s a perfect exercise for that, too. You can opt for working out at the gym or at home to fight off depression. Drawing all the negative emotions out through exercise will be both physically and emotionally healthy for you.
Stress is an easy ‘killer’ of the human body. It even often results to either losing or gaining too much weight. You’re also more susceptible to diseases if your body is overly stressed. So how do you relieve stress in a healthier way? Try doing yoga, Pilates, or Tai chi.These exercises require focus, patience, and attention. Also, the way of maintaining the correct breathing will help you deal with the stress.
And even if you’re already in a good mood, there is still a way for you to improve that by trying some outdoor activities. There is something about nature that makes you feel great. You will have greater perspective when working out in a fresh air. If you expose yourself to sunlight regularly, you will improve your mood in a great deal. It is not important which outdoor activity you choose, the results on you general mood will be amazing.Loading...Error