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How to control breathing during exercise and sports

January 9, 2017



Research has shown that compared to those who do little or no exercise, people who exercise regularly are healthier, live longer, think clearer, are less depressed and suffer less anxiety.


Exercise is an important part of achieving good health. The human body was designed to be active. However, depending on your condition and  the severity of it, you may need to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regime. 


Try not to miss a day, make exercise a priority each day. Develop the mind-set that it is a pleasurable experience, and it will be; after all it is what the body was designed to do. 


When starting out, go for something you like doing, or could get to like. Slow and steady is the key. Don't be too ambitious when starting, but try to progress each week. Walking, cycling, and swimming are great exercises to start with. They are gentle on the body and can be increased gradually.


If your health is poor and can only walk around 20 steps before resting, start by walking only 10 or 15 steps then stop. Never push the body to beyond the point that breathing can be controlled: to do so would be counter-productive and potentially dangerous.


How do you know if you are exercising properly?

You are exercising properly if you can achieve the following: nasal breathing only, an improved control pause, and you no longer need a reliever medication prior to exercise.


It is vital that all breathing be done through the nose. If you feel the need to mouth breathe during activity, just stop until you 'catch your breath' then resume breathing through your nose.


It is only when your CP is high (higher levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood) that mouth breathing can prevail for a short duration of time. 


The bodies requirement for air increases substantially with any exercise. As a result the breathing becomes louder and people are conscious that other people can hear them breathe. This is temporary and the 'heavy-breathing' will reduce as the levels of carbon dioxide increase. Whatever happens, it is important to never revert to mouth breathing.


Controlled breathing during sports



If you have asthma or another breathing-related condition, it is recommended that you should not participate in strenuous aerobic activity until your CP (Control Pause) is above 20. The increased breathing during such activities can quickly loose carbon dioxide and result in a possible asthma attack or other breathing problem.


Research shows that when first switching to nasal breathing, fitness levels tend to dip, but with continued nasal breathing, fitness levels will improve substantially within 8 weeks if nasal breathing is maintained. 


It is advisable for people involved in sports to train at a more relaxed pace until they become accustomed to nasal breathing. Once the new regime becomes like second nature, more intensive training came be undertaken. Many professional athletes use Buteyko breathing as a way to enhance their performance; Some of the benefits are: quicker reflexes, quicker recovery from injuries, and more stamina and endurance. 


It is relatively easy to combine controlled breathing with sport, with the exception of sports that require intensive bursts such as sprinting. For example soccer should not present a problem if gentle and gradual warm-up is performed first.


Other steps to aid breathing can also be taken during a game; for example, in soccer, when the ball is elsewhere, breathe a little less than is required and when running for the ball try to keep breathing through the nose.


If it gets to the stage where the need to breathe through you mouth arises, calm the breathing and switch to nasal breathing as soon as the ball has passed. If the need to mouth breathe is too strong for long periods of time, then it is better to stop playing the sport until your CP is higher and nasal breathing becomes easier to play at the desired level.  Continuing to play while not being able to breathe properly, could make your condition worse.


 While playing try to ensure the breathing is not too deep and remember to observe the breathing as much as possible, quieting it when you can.