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4 Benefits of Nasal Breathing When Exercising

By July 7, 2013November 8th, 2017Breathing Processes, Movement and Exercise

A few weeks ago, I learned something new and amazing about exercising.

What I learned was breathing the right way when working out changed the way I feel while exercising.

Really the experience of exercising at the gym just got more enjoyable.

And it all comes down to breathing.

What is this new way to breathe while exercising?

The information I am about to tell you comes from the book Body Mind and Sport by Dr. John Douillard, DC, an ayurvedic doctor from Boulder, CO. He also happens to be part of my own personal team I use to maintain my health.

Most of my life I felt tense while exercising and often exhausted afterward.

The books would say you should feel energized but that was not my experience. I would go to the gym because I knew it was good for me but I can’t say it was something I looked forward to or enjoyed most of the time, until now.

This new way of breathing for me is nasal breathing.

Nasal breathing when exercising allows you to experience a state of calm while in action.

Dr. Douillard did a study. He compared nose breathing with mouth breathing during exercise and saw unprecedented results. During vigorous exercise breathing through your mouth, which most people do, the brain waves revved up into a very fast and stressed state of beta brain wave activity. When the same subjects did the exact same workout while breathing through the nose, the brain waves became calm and coherent. The brain went into an alpha state, which is usually seen in deep relaxation states like meditation.

It has to do with the autonomic nervous system.  This system includes the sympathetic nervous system also known as the “fight or flight” response and the parasympathetic nervous system also known as the “rest and digest” response.

During conventional mouth breathing, while exercising, the fight or flight sympathetic nervous system goes way up and the parasympathetic system goes way down.

During nasal breathing, while exercising this didn’t happen. Instead, the fight or flight response only went up to 50% of its capacity and the calming parasympathetic nervous system – which normally goes way down – increased by 50%! The opposite nervous systems were co-existing!

During this state of exercise, the mind learns how to cope with stress from a calm place and the body learns how to engage in dynamic physical activity while repairing itself at the same time. 

Health Benefits of Nasal Breathing When Exercising

Keeps You Calm –  When you are breathing through your nose you have to breathe more deeply.  Nasal breathing drives the oxygen into the lower lobes of the lungs where the calming nerves of the parasympathetic nervous system can be activated even while under stress. Though mouth breathing fills the upper chest quickly, only a little oxygen penetrates into the lower lobes of the lungs. If you are only taking shallow breaths the oxygen only goes into your upper lobes all day, you miss the 26,000 (how many breaths we take each day )opportunities to massage your heart and lungs, process CO2, and calm your nervous system.

More Efficient Utilization of Oxygen –One of the most important reasons to breathe through your nose is because of a gas called nitric oxide that’s made by your nose and sinus mucous membranes. This gas is produced in small amounts, but when inhaled into the lungs, it significantly enhances your lung’s capacity to absorb oxygen, increasing oxygen absorption in your lungs by 10-25%. Nitric oxide also can kill bacteria, viruses and other germs.

Detoxification –  By breathing through your nose you get the oxygen into the lower lobes of the lungs which is where 60-80% of the blood fill alveoli are. You are therefore clearing the waste from your blood more completely. The reason you huff and puff during exercise is that the upper lobes are less efficient at removing the CO2 waste.

Moves the Lymph Fluids  – This is what I consider to be the biggest reason to breathe through your nose. With deep, efficient nasal breathing especially during exercise, the rib cage acts as a lymphatic pump designed to move toxic waste out of the heart and lungs and pull toxic lymph from various parts of your body such as the:

  • digestive system – belly fat and bloating
  • legs  – cellulite
  • feet  – arthritis
  • reproductive organs – hormonal problems

Your ultimate goal is to increase your intensity while slowing your breath rate.  When you breathe through your nose your body will choose longer, deeper and slower breaths as you increase the intensity of your workout.

I have been practicing this recently and initially, it was a bit hard but now I feel excited to exercise. It is so much easier with the nasal breathing, I also have a sense of peace and calm in my mind.  

The latest research shows the best way to exercise is to do Sprints or Interval Training which I have mentioned in my webinars.

The research also shows Interval Training is the best way to burn fat. How do we train this way?  Read my blog post on Sprints or Interval Training to learn how.

Start enjoy your exercise more by breathing through your nose.

By the way, it is also a good idea to breathe through your nose throughout the day too!




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