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Breathing and Exercise

Check Your Breath! No Matter Your Workout, We Have Some Helpful Tips For You

You breathe in. You breathe out. You rarely think about your inhales and exhales, except (hopefully) when you're working out. Your breath is important; after all it supports your effort and can help make you more efficient. To hone in on the simple act of breathing, we've broken it down by exercise type.

Shot of an attractive young woman working out on a treadmill in a gym

How to Breathe For Cardio

Avoid shallow breaths since they are often an indicator that you are working too hard. Shallow breathing also indicates that you haven't established a suitable breath pattern for your activity. You want to take stronger and deeper breaths when doing cardio, so take the time to find your rhythm. For instance, when it comes to running, try to match your breath with your steps and create a pattern, like breathing in for two steps and out for two steps. This technique works with many cardio machines, too, like the elliptical, stair stepper, or even a stationary bike.

How to Breathe For Strength Training

Generally you want to breathe out on the difficult part of the lift or bodyweight exercise to help stabilize your body during exertion. For example, you exhale when you are lifting a dumbbell to your shoulder during a bicep curl. Or, for a push-up, you inhale as you bend your elbows to lower your body towards the floor, and you exhale as your push yourself back to the plank position. In both of these exercises, the exhale helps you engage your core to keep your torso stable, which helps protect against lower-back injuries. You will often hear the cue "inhale to prepare" in Pilates or yoga classes to remind people to breathe in before they "work."


How to Breathe For Stretching

Slow steady breathing is preferable when stretching and will help you relax. Try to focus on breathing from your diaphragm, which will make your belly move out on the inhale instead of your chest and shoulders. As you inhale, feel your spine lengthening (if the position allows) and use the exhale to get a little deeper in the stretch to lengthen your muscle just a bit more. Remember, save your static, long, slow stretching for after your workout when your warm muscles are much more elastic.

Ready. Set. Breathe.

Image Source: Getty / gradyreese
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