Almost every facet of human physical performance is trained to some degree whether by athletes, musicians, or just part of your day to day tasks at work. These may include strength, endurance, co-ordination, mobility, flexibility and so on. It is staggering then that one area that receives very little direct attention when looking to improve physical performance is breathing.
On average we breath 20,000+ times a day depending on how active we are, and over the course of our life time we will take over 600,000,000 (600 million) breaths if you live to the age of 75+. How is it then that so little attention is paid to such an important function that acts as a linchpin and foundation to many other things in our body?!
The effects of breathing are wide ranging throughout the body, far more so than just the ability to be able to deliver oxygen to the system and remove waste products such as carbon dioxide. Research has shown that rhythms of breathing can affect fear and memory; breathing in and out promote hormonal responses in the body that can create both positive and negative effects; and when you breathe efficiently from a musculo-skeletal standpoint you serve to decrease the pressure on your back and activate your (intrinsic) “core”. Three very significant things I’m sure you would agree and they were just the first three that came to mind.
Breathing can serve to reduce anxiety, decrease heart rate and blood pressure, hold the key to solving someone’s back pain, improve the quality of someone’s sleep, and serve to increase almost every other facet of human performance. And yet there is very little application of knowledge out there in regard to how to improve your breathing performance.
My mum has been a lifelong asthma sufferer, she uses a daily inhaler and also has a blue one she uses pro re nata (as needed). You would have thought that when you have a lifelong breathing disorder that requires ongoing daily medication that everything would have been done to address the physical aspects of breathing in the hope to minimise the potential negative side effects of asthma and maximise her physical potential. I am not suggesting that breathing exercises could replace her medication or resolve her asthma at all, I am not advocating that if you have a breathing disorder that you should reduce your medication and replace it with breathing exercises. The point is that if you have an underlying issue why would you not do everything possible to reduce the potential impact on the system by maximising your capability to do something which you do 20,000 times a day? Unfortunately no-one has ever introduced her to the possibility that her breathing mechanics could be improved upon and that improving the way she breathes could improve a wide range of breathing parameters – the same ones that are often used to help diagnose someone as having a breathing disorder.
A couple of group of researchers have demonstrated that a number of breathing parameters can be improved either by simply breathing in a particular way or by introducing an intervention over a period of 4-6 weeks. All of these pieces of research have been carried out with groups of young and old smokers – quite significant I’m sure you would agree. Research has also demonstrated that training the respiratory muscles can actually lead to an improved endurance performance by itself. Furthermore the stronger your respiratory muscles are the greater the amount of intra-abdominal pressure you will be able to build which is what serves to protect your back and reduce the amount of pressure on the physical structures of your back.
So someone please answer me this – how is it that “breathing training” receives so little attention when the benefits can be seen and felt across the whole population?! Maybe it isn’t sexy enough.
If you have made it this far then and agree then please share this blog post to start raising awareness of not only the wide ranging effects and importance of breathing but how relatively easy it is to start improving numerous important measure.