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퍼레이드 메거진 What, if any, are the benefits of “deep breathing” during exercise?
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PARADE Magazine

Better Fitnes

By Michael O´Shea
Published: August 22, 2004

What, if any, are the benefits of “deep breathing” during exercise?

Deep breathing simply refers to delivering oxygen fully into your lungs so that your body receives the amount necessary to nourish cells. When you breathe properly, not only does more oxygen reach the lungs but also more waste products such as carbon dioxide are expelled. Pilates and yoga, in particular, promote the advantages of intense breathing techniques. Both exercise disciplines underscore the importance of engaging the diaphragm.

Too many exercisers breathe shallowly and use only the top half of their lungs. The diaphragm is a large muscle between the thoracic and abdominal cavities, underneath the heart and lungs. As you inhale, the diaphragm contracts and draws downward, forming a vacuum that pulls air into the lungs. It relaxes when you exhale.

Poor oxygen delivery can be chiefly responsible for restricting the intensity and duration of a workout. As your muscles run out of oxygen, the cells begin to produce lactic acid. The buildup of lactic acid in the muscles causes a burning sensation and quickly leads to fatigue. If you work out on a regular basis, the heart and lungs become more efficient at distributing oxygen to your muscles. Which is why monitoring your heart rate is critical: A spike in your heart rate indicates that your body is struggling to provide oxygen to your muscles.

“Most people will stop exercising when they experience an overwhelming feeling of shortness of breath,” notes Ralph F. Fregosi, a researcher at the University of Arizona. “Doing proper breathing exercises can help you exercise longer and/or more intensely.” Over a four-week period, a group of cyclists and triathletes at the university completed 20 sessions of 30-minute breathing exercises. Nine out of 10 improved the performance of their breathing muscles by 12% and increased their endurance by almost 5%.

“The method used to train the respiratory muscles is hard to do without specialized equipment,” Fregosi adds. “But the study suggests that average individuals also could benefit from this training, since it would alleviate the shortness of breath associated with poor conditioning.”

However, shortness of breath also could indicate heart and lung problems, Fregosi cautions. The latter would require careful consideration by your physician.

“Breathing can provide a vital link between body and mind,” says Young Yi, a licensed acupuncturist in Annandale, Va. “You can practice breathing two to five times a day. Whenever you feel stressed or angry, stop and do your breathing exercises.” Here’s a simple one from Dr. Yi: Sit or stand up straight, with your chest up and shoulders back. Breathe in through your nose and purse your lips slightly (as if to whistle) while exhaling three to four times through your mouth, slower each time. Start with five reps and work up to 10. “This exercise improves ventilation and decreases air trapped in the lungs,” says Yi.

Can anyone practice the breathing methods used in yoga?

Slow, deep and rhythmic breathing is the essence of hatha yoga, the leading form of yoga in the U.S. Most classes begin with a group of breathing exercises that are performed while lying on your back or stomach, sitting in a chair or standing upright. You’re encouraged to inhale and exhale through your nose (in equal timing) to regulate breathing and to establish an even tempo. “These ‘rules of breath’ can be done and applied anywhere, anytime,” says Mara Carrico, author of Yoga Journal’s Yoga Basics.

“Belly breathing”—breathing into and out of the abdomen—is a method often suggested for yoga beginners: Expand your abdomen as you inhale; then contract, or flatten, it as you exhale. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, slowly and consciously.

Here are a few more breathing principles from Carrico: Inhale when moving upward, expanding your chest or preparing to move. Exhale when bending, lifting a weight or moving deeply into a stretch. Never hold your breath. Extending your exhalations—that is, making your exhale longer than your inhale—promotes deeper relaxation and greater flexibility.


Bonus Online Content

In his "Better Fitness" column in this week´s issue, Michael O´Shea explains why deep breathing is beneficial when exercising. Here´s more on the positive effects of deep breathing, plus an exercise anyone can try:

"Optimal breathing will make you healthier,” says Young Yi, a licensed acupuncturist in Annandale, Va., who often teaches breathing techniques to his patients. “Proper oxygenation through deep breathing boosts the immune system and can help prevent illnesses by bringing more oxygen to the blood.”

“The most efficient breathing muscle is the diaphragm,” says Yi. The following exercise is designed to help you better utilize the diaphragm muscle:

• Lie on your back in a bed with your knees bent.

• Place one of your hands on your abdomen, and let the other hand rest on your upper chest.

• As you inhale through your nose, make your stomach move out. Keep your upper chest as still as possible.

• As you exhale through pursed lips, let your stomach fall inward.

• The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible throughout the entire exercise.


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