Breathing exercises have been around for years but for many of us, breathing never been more than an involuntary bodily function required for survival. While there are many benefits to adding breathing exercises to your daily routine, these top 5 reasons are meant to help with the most common challenges many of us are dealing with today.
Breathing exercises are known for strengthening your lungs and improving lung capacity. Most recently, doctors have been prescribing breathing exercises to those who are recovering from COVID, including “long haul” or “long term” COVID. According to Hopkins Medicine, proper deep breathing techniques have shown to help restore lung function after illness by using the diaphragm.*
Lower stress and anxiety.
Breathing exercises help reduce stress in a variety of ways. When you breathe deeply, this wakes up the parasympathetic nervous system (the “brake mechanism” that calms you when you are in fight or flight mode) through stimulation of the vagus nerve. Breathing exercises can also lower your heart rate when you are anxious.
Get better sleep.
If you are a person who finds it hard to fall asleep or fall back asleep at night, breathing exercises are an incredible tool. One popular technique is the 4–7–8 breathing exercise developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. It helps with relaxing the body and calming the mind before bed. Adding a breathing exercise to your night routine works best when it is part of an ongoing practice and only takes a few minutes.
Breathing exercises work similarly with anxiety as they do to curb cravings. Cravings associated with a change in diet can cause irritability and even physical tension in the body. By doing breathing exercises, it can help ease some of the more uncomfortable sensations associated with cravings. Another tip: make it a habit to take a few breaths before a meal. This can help with stress eating as it helps us calm down before we mindlessly use food as a way to cope.
Improve athletic performance.
Nose breathing improves oxygenation in the body. Essentially this means that when you breathe through your nose, you take in less air, which increases CO2 in the blood and increases how much oxygen reaches your muscles.*
If you are ready to get the benefits of breathing exercises, Little By Little Labs has two apps that you can try. Breethr is a free app with additional subscription-only exercises. Breethr has breathing exercises for all your needs from an energy booster to Dr. Weil’s 4–7–8 routine. Another app, EasyWellness, includes breathing exercises in their dynamic wellness programs. Start a healthier lifestyle by doing breathing exercises along with stretching routines, step counting and hydration tracking.
▶️ Note: Please consult with your doctor before attempting breathing exercises, especially if you are recovering from COVID, have other lung-related illness, experience headache, shortness of breath, dizziness or any other discomfort. Breathing exercises are not a cure or treatment for illness but can be an excellent tool to use in conjunction with your doctors’ recommendations.