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How You Breathe Affects Your Performance
The importance of regular exercise incorporated into a healthy lifestyle and diet cannot be stressed enough in our quest for optimal health and longevity.
Stress during exercise causes the production of a stress-fighting hormone called cortisol, along with other hormones that deliver a post-exercise hormonal desire for comfort foods.
The desire to eat after exercise often exceeds the calories burned during exercise, ironically rendering exercise a fat-burning failure. The Ayurvedic approach to exercise suggests nose breathing (nasal breathing) instead of mouth breathing during exercise to replace exercise stress with a chemistry of composure and calm.
15 benefits of breathing through your nose during exercise:
1. Nose breathing drives oxygen more efficiently into the lower lobes of the lungs rather than staying in the upper lobes, as with mouth breathing. With nose breathing, all five lobes of the lungs are used to breathe rather than just the upper two. The lower lobes of the lungs have more parasympathetic, calming and repairing nerve receptors, which are activated during nose breathing exercise. The upper lobes have more sympathetic (fight or flight) stress receptors that are activated during mouth breathing exercise. (1)
2. The lower lobes of the lungs are also gravity fed, and thus have more blood. Therefore, they have the ability to perfuse more waste (CO2) out of the body. The reason we huff and puff during exercise is because we are not removing the CO2 as efficiently as we could be. Nose breathing maximizes this action. (1)
3. Breathing into the lower lobes of the lungs massages and exercises the diaphragm at the base of the lungs, making us more efficient deep breathers in the long run.
4. Freeing the diaphragm to contract and relax fully massages the stomach situated just below the diaphragm, allowing for more efficient stomach function which can help in avoiding heartburn and hiatal hernia-like symptoms. (1)
5. Nose breathing (nasal breathing) forces the entire rib cage to breathe. Deep nose breathing engages all 12 ribs to act as levers that massage the heart and lungs, rather than acting as a cage that squeezes the heart and lungs 26,000 breaths a day. (1)
6. Nose breathing and full rib cage activation acts as a pump to pull lymph fluid from the lower parts of the body up into the chest cavity and to the heart supporting healthy and active lymphatic flow. (1)
7. Nose breathing and full rib cage activation is critical for optimal flexibility and elasticity of the spine, head, neck and low back. (1)
8. Nose breathing exercise has been shown to increase the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is an important cellular signaling molecule in the body which has a hand in many favorable physiological processes, including expanding blood vessels, increasing blood flow, and protecting the organs from damage. Nitric oxide has been coined the Noble Prize-winning panacea molecule. Nitric oxide was not shown to be produced during mouth breathing exercise. (1)
9. Nose breathing lowered heart rate and breath rate compared to mouth breathing exercise. (1)
10. Nose breathing exercise increased alpha brain wave activity compared to mouth breathing exercise. Alpha brain waves are produced during relaxation or meditative states. Mouth breathing exercise produces a significant amount of beta brain waves that are associated with a stress response. (1)
11. Nose breathing exercise increased brain wave coherence compared to mouth breathing exercise. Brain wave coherence is associated with calm and organized brain function. (1)
12. Nose breathing exercise was perceived as less exertion (it was easier) as compared to mouth breathing exercise, according to the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion. (1)
13. Nose breathing exercise demonstrated shorter recovery times and better endurance than mouth breathing exercise. (1)
14. Nose breathing exercise measured a significant reduction in a galvanic skin (stress) response compared to mouth breathing exercise (it was less stressful). (1)
15. Nose breathing exercise reported 50% less fight or flight stress and 50% more calm parasympathetic activation when compared to mouth breathing exercise. (1)
Bottom Line: Exercise does not have to be painful. In fact, studies show that we burn fat better when we are not straining during exercise. Consider nose breathing during exercise and begin to enjoy your exercise routine, maybe for the first time ever!
- Douillard, J. Body Mind and Sport. Three Rivers Press. New York. 2000