Breathing is something we all do every single day as a vital bodily function. However, most people are unaware of the fact that they can improve their breathing habits to better their overall health.
By implementing certain diaphragmatic breathing exercises into one’s daily routine, they will experience benefits both inside and outside of the gym. By improving one’s ability to utilize their diaphragm while breathing, they will improve their core stability, reduce heart rate and blood pressure, and feel more relaxed overall.
Inside the gym, core stability is crucial for both upper body and lower body exercises. The core acts as the connection between the upper and lower body. Without a stable core, exercise technique can drop a significant degree, which can lead to potential injury (Mahdieh et al., 2020).
By performing diaphragmatic breathing exercises, this leads to a greater ability to create intra-abdominal pressure. This pressure, in turn, is what allows for improved stabilization of the core. Creating sufficient intra-
abdominal pressure can be compared to an unopened can of soda. If you try to step on the unopened can when it is placed vertically, it is much harder to break. This is due to the great amounts of pressure within the can. As soon as the can is opened, it is no longer pressurized. If you were to step on the open can at this point, the can would break easily and soda would be everywhere. The same goes for your core; if it is optimally pressurized, the entire body experiences greater stability, and vice versa.
Outside of the gym, diaphragmatic breathing can help to reduce both physiological and psychological stress. In a recent study, diaphragmatic breathing techniques were taught to pre-hypertensive patients (aged 45-60); these patients on average lowered their systolic blood pressure by
4 mmHg after a 10-session trial period (Hamasaki, 2020). Another study, also reviewed by Hamasaki, 2020, looked into the effects of diaphragmatic breathing on respiratory rate in patients with COPD. This study revealed that though diaphragmatic breathing practices, a decrease in respiratory rate would be observed. In turn, this study determined that a decreased respiratory rate would help to lower heart rate, systemic blood pressure, and circulating blood volume. Psychologically, people who practice
diaphragmatic breathing are typically more relaxed and experience a greater quality of life (Liu et al.,2021).
So, how can you work towards improving your diaphragmatic breathing?
The simplest way is to start by lying flat on your back. Place one hand on your chest, and one hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through the belly, feeling your belly rise into your hand. The chest should remain still. Inhale for a count of 4 seconds, and hold the breath in for a count of 6 seconds. After that, exhale the breath out for an 8 second count, and feel the belly drop back down. Continue performing this for a 5-10 minute
period, or for as long as you like.
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