How to Breathe When You Exercise

Breathing correctly can improve performance and protect your lungs and brain.

Breathing correctly is an important part of exercise. Often, one will breathe shallowly during exercise. Shallow breaths bring less oxygen to the heart, muscles and lungs. Without proper breath technique, the body cannot function at its highest capacity.  

The best breathing is done through the nose for several reasons.  

Lung Function

It protects our lungs.  There are tiny hairs that line our nostrils and filter out bits of dust and dirt than can be harmful to our lungs. Mucus gathers in our nose if those nose hairs collect too much dust and we sneeze to get rid of them.

The nose is divided into two cavities by the membranes of the septum and this warms and humidifies air before it is sent to the lungs. This keeps our lungs safe, which allows us to breathe better when we exercise.

Balanced Blood

It maintains balance in our blood. Breathing in air too fast and in large volumes can cause hyperventilation (excessively fast breathing) and that is what can happen when we breathe through our mouth. If we release carbon dioxide too quickly, it causes the vessels and arteries that carry blood to the cells to become constricted. As a result, the oxygen that our cells need is not released in adequate quantities.

Brain Health

It helps oxygen reach our brain. Our brain needs proper levels of oxygen when we exercise because without it, the brain turns on our “fight or flight” responses, which can make us anxious and tense.

breath, how to breathe, weight lifting, cardio

  • Exercise.com (exercise)


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  • Brian Partridge (brian) 3 years ago

    I always struggle with breathing, because somewhere along the way I learned to hold my breath when focusing on tasks... I need to remind myself to breath when I'm exercising or hiking!