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Deep Breathing to Combat Stress and Enhance Exercise Performance

We only use a small amount of our lung capacity in everyday life. In order for us to keep our lungs healthy, we should practice deep breathing to oxygenate our blood, which supplies nutrients to our entire body. Oxygen is a fuel in its own right for our bodies and the brain:

–       Our lungs take in oxygen, burning food and releasing energy through a process called oxidation, which eliminates the carbon dioxide produced

–       Oxygen helps to destroy harmful bacteria in our bodies without removing the good bacteria that we need

–       All the metabolic processes in our bodies are regulated by oxygen! It makes the brain more powerful and stable, allowing it to process lots of information every second.

Anxiety and stress shorten our breathing pattern, so conscious deep breathing is recommended as it relaxes both our body and mind, slowing down our hurried pace and helping to stop the mind racing.

If you do not meditate or practice a deep breathing technique every day, exercise is the best way to improve your lung health and is very accessible to anyone without having to learn an addition skill. The more activity you do, the more oxygen is required by the body to aid performance, allowing the body to work more efficiently which leads to better results.

So, no matter the activity, dancing, swimming, walking, running or at rest, one of the best techniques is breathing from your diaphragm – breathing in through the nose and mouth, filling the stomach area with air then slowly exhaling as the stomach reduces. However, we need to clear our lungs of pollutants in urban areas and should be careful of the air we breathe… 

When feeling anxious or stressed, diaphragm breathing can help to clear your head and release tension. When lifting weights, it can help you to lift more and exert more force with less effort. If you are running, you should aim to stabilise your breathing pattern, whereas when stretching you need to aim for extra-long inhales and exhales to help you to relax and lengthen muscle tissue.