Importance Of Breathing While Exercising – Is It Really That Important?

Importance of Breathing While Exercising - Is it Really That ImportantGreetings!  Breathing may seem like one of the simplest things you can do.  However, to do it correctly while working out can be slightly more complex.

Today I want to go over the importance of breathing while exercising and how it can affect your workout.

When many people get ready to exercise, breathing usually isn’t at the forefront of their mind.  Normally, making it through the workout is a higher priority.  Depending on the type of exercise you’re doing, there are different ways to breathe for different exercises.

Before I get into detail on those, I want to give you a little background on your lungs and what actually happens during the breathing process. Hopefully, this will help you understand why different methods of breathing are used based on the exercise.

Importance of Breathing While Exercising - Is it Really That ImportantLungs – On average, your lungs take in about 1/2 liter of oxygen each time you take in a normal breath.

However, the amount of air can actually increase to around 3 liters or more depending on the exercise you’re doing.


When you inhale, air travels through your nose, mouth, larynx, bronchi, and down into tiny sacs in your lungs called alveoli.

In the alveoli is where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place.  When you move a lot or exercise, the carbon dioxide and hydrogen levels in your blood increase.  As a result of this, your ph level drops causing you to breathe faster.

Over time, exercise can increase your cardiorespiratory efficiency, but the size of your lungs stays the same.  Next, I’m going to break down different exercise activities and how you should breathe with each one.

Cardio – Research has shown that having poor breathing technique can reduce your overall performance and speed during cardiorespiratory exercises.  While running, one method you can use is the 2 to 2 rule.  It’s very simple and all you do is take 2 steps while inhaling and 2 steps while exhaling.

This is a general guideline and can be adjusted based on what works for you.  If 2 1/2 or 3 steps work better for you, then by all means go with what’s easier.

This helps you get into a rhythm and keep a good flow of oxygen going. For other cardio exercises such as jumping jacks and jumping rope, you shouldn’t pant or breathe shallow.  Deeper and slower breaths generally lead to better cardiorespiratory performance and stamina.

Importance of Breathing While Exercising - Is it Really That ImportantResistance Training – When lifting weights, it’s best to exhale during exertion (lifting), and inhale during the eccentric or relaxation phase.

You should never hold your breath during either the lifting or relaxation movements.

Stretching – While static (stationary) stretching to warm up before or cool down after exercise, you should aim to inhale and exhale the same amount of air slowly and deeply.  This helps calm your nervous system, lower blood pressure, and relax your muscles.

Nose vs Mouth – Breathing through your nose helps warm, moisten, and filter the air so the oxygen is usually cleaner when it hits your lungs. Therefore, it’s normally better to breathe through your nose.

However, if you’re doing an intense workout and your demand for oxygen is pretty high, you may need to breathe through your mouth a little to take in more air.

Diaphragm – Using your diaphragm as opposed to your chest while breathing during exercise is also important.  Your diaphragm is a muscle below your lungs, and when you inhale it moves downward.  When it does this, it enables your lungs to expand.

Many people don’t use their diaphragm because of poor posture and other reasons.  This causes them to use their chest more and breathe more shallow.  One thing you can do to gauge if you’re using your diaphragm properly is the diaphragm test.

To do this, you place your hands on the lower part of your ribs so you can feel them rise and fall when you breathe.  Most of your breathing should be felt here and not in your chest.  You should use your diaphragm more for both normal breathing and exercise breathing.

Summary – Breathing isn’t a subject that gets talked about a lot when it comes to fitness.  However, it’s importance is paramount and it can have an effect on how much you maximize your workout.  Breathing properly will allow you to have good muscular efficiency and better performance.

You also won’t get fatigued as fast during workouts enabling you to accomplish more.  If you have any comments or questions please let me know and I will get back to you.  Thanks for your time and don’t hold your breath!