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By Jane Sandwood

Breathing is the only autonomous mechanism of the body that we can control. How and when we breathe dictates much of our overall health.  In fact, inefficient breathing is linked to not only lung and chest pain, but also upper-body muscle aches and fatigue. Strong breathing practices are especially important for workouts (of any variety), because your body needs to receive extra oxygen to maintain a healthy heart rate during physical exertion.  The best type of breathing exercises vary based on different forms of exercise.   It’s important to know which breathing rhythms suit your workout and modify your routine accordingly.

Breathing Techniques for Yoga and Pilates

Yoga and Pilates are probably the two strands of exercise most closely associated with maintaining good breathing practices. In yoga the term pranayama refers to a range of conscious breathing exercises central to the release of energy. One teaching of pranayama is to avoid holding your breath, which is linked to overexertion and deprives your body of oxygen. Instead try breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth to increase airflow through your sinuses.  The teachings of Pilates stress breathing exercises that stimulate diaphragmatic breathing, which happens when you inhale deeply to exert better control over your core muscles. Deep breathing should feel like your lungs and rib cage are expanding in all directions.  The goal is to obtain as much oxygenation in the lungs as possible.  (




Cardiovascular Energy

During cardio workouts try not to inhale solely through your nose.  Your body needs full airflow to avoid hyperventilation. Try breathing in the 3:2 inhale-to-exhale ratio. This means your breathing syncs with the rhythm of your feet against the pavement. For example, INHALE on the LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT foot strikes and EXHALE fully on the RIGHT, LEFT foot strikes. It can take a bit of practice, but once you get the rhythm down, the 3:2 ratio will boost your running pace and leave you feeling energized even after a heavy cardio workout. Many professional runners and cyclists even opt to use nasal breathing strips to widen their nasal passages and regulate breathing during a workout.

Weightlifting and Resistance Training

The methodology for good breathing while doing resistance training is simple: remember to breathe out with exertion. Training your body to sync your breathing with the release of energy is relatively easy to do. For instance, if you are lifting a dumbbell, you would breathe in as you raise the dumbbell upwards, pause, and breathe out as you release the dumbbell back down. If you still struggle to breathe correctly during a workout,  check for symptoms of allergies or asthma, and checking your posture are ways to boost airflow. (



Breathing techniques take patience and consistent effort, but the results are truly rewarding for those that desire to increase a boost in respiratory health. Try keeping a log of breathing exercises and note how you feel afterwards to observe the changes that take place in your body when you learn to breathe correctly during a fitness routine.


Jane Sandwood is a professional freelance writer and content manager with over 10 years’ experience across many fields.

Jane has a particular interest in issues relating to fitness and nutrition.

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