Working Out Is No Excuse To Be A Mouth Breather
With winter approaching, I decided to get a membership at a local gym. During the first few days of working out at the gym I was blown away at the percentage of people who were mouth breathing while working out. It was 100%. Everyone in the entire place—whether they were gently prancing on the elliptical machine or squatting 500lbs—was breathing with the mouth open. Now, the majority of the people at this gym seem to be very physically fit. They seem like the type of people who do their research and put health first. Maybe this explains why I expected to see a decent percentage of people breathing nasally. I guess I just assumed that with all the health information available these days that a small group of these “fit” people would have this important understanding. I am now a few weeks into my membership at the gym and I am no longer shocked to see all of the mouth breathers plugging away. I guess I have grown accustomed to it. But, seeing this display of dysfunctional breathing and knowing the importance of nasal breathing (100% of the time) I have been motivated to write this post. The message I want to get across is: Don’t be a mouthbreather! Even when you’re working out.
The Mouth VS The Nose
The other day I was on a trusted health website where a man was discussing how to breathe while running. In essence, he said “while running you will want to breathe through your mouth because it is bigger than your nostrils and that way you can get more oxygen into your body.” I was shocked! I wanted to ask him what his physiological justification was. Amazingly, I have heard this same argument in various forms from other trusted sites. While, yes, it is true that you get more air into your body by mouth breathing than by nasal breathing, it does not mean that it is the recommended mode of breathing while working out; nor does it mean that this extra oxygen is reaching the muscles, organs, and cells. Breathing during workouts is not just about getting more oxygen into the body. In fact, your main drive to breathe (at rest or) while working out has nothing to do with oxygen. Your primary drive to breathe is actually your body’s need to rid itself of the increasing supply of carbon dioxide. As you increase your activity level, more oxygen is metabolized, and the main by-product of aerobic metabolism is carbon dioxide. The more you workout, the more the carbon dioxide that is produced. As readers of this blog know well, carbon dioxide is necessary in the delivery of oxygen to the muscles and cells.
Your Nose Knows Best
When done correctly, nasal breathing can completely overhaul your workout. You will get more benefit for the effort, you will increase blood flow and lower the burden on the heart, you will increase oxygen transfer to the muscles and cells, you will increase nitric oxide levels in the blood, and you will produce less lactic acid—and you can get all of these benefits while still receiving more than enough oxygen through the nose. This is how you were meant to breathe while working out.
When working out, let your nose dictate your pace. In other words, cut back on your routine to the point where nasal breathing is comfortable. While working out, each breath should be deep into the diaphragm and not rushed. Over the next several weeks, your body will adapt and allow you to build back up to your regular routine…except this time you will be comfortably breathing through the nose. If you find that you are struggling to breath with your nose and are tempted to open your mouth, it simply means that you are working out at a level that is more intense than what your body desires. Let you nose be your guide. Build up gradually. For the best success in making the transition to nasal breathing while working out, it is vital to learn to breathe properly at rest.
Last updated March 21 2017
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