Do you find that you breathe harder during exercise? If so, you are among the 100 percent of living mammals who also find that breathing is more labored during physical activity.
But, did you know that the more labored your breathing, the less oxygen is able to move freely through your body? It’s true, and it isn’t just our lungs that need oxygen. In fact, our muscles and entire body use oxygen as a main energy source to function properly.
Simply put, you need oxygen to exercise, which is why we’ve brought you six ways to breathe easy during exercise.
1. Consider the activity you’re participating in
Not all physical activities are the same, making it only natural that you will be breathing differently to produce the amount of oxygen your body needs. Take long distance running vs sprinting, for example. When running slower, it is best to do slow, deep breathing to keep relaxed and the oxygen flowing. However, when doing sprints or running up hills, you will need to breathe more shallow and rapid, because that's your body’s best way to get the oxygen during these exercises.
If you’re weight lifting, experts say that you should focus on exhaling when you lift and inhaling when you lower. This is because when you lower your weights, your blood pressure drops, and you need to take this time to add more oxygen to your blood so you don’t pass out.
2. Remember to exhale
When people think of breathing, the focus is often put on inhaling because that is when oxygen enters the body. However, exhaling is equally as important because it is when carbon dioxide is eliminated.
Oftentimes, when you breathe hard during exercise, it's not just because your lungs need more oxygen but most likely because you need to exhale the carbon dioxide that builds up in your exhausted muscles.
By remembering to exhale, it will give you more control over your breathing in general, thus improving the oxygen levels in your blood to circulate throughout your body.
3. Get some fresh air
While it is nice to believe that all the air you breathe is clean and fresh, it isn’t. From pollutants caused by cars, homes and buildings, to other methane gases, the air you breathe may not be the best. This is why it is important to find ways to get fresh air.
Go for a walk in the mountains or a tree-lined park. Open windows to let air circulate throughout your home. Increase the number of live plants in your home and/or office. Doing these things will improve upon your fresh oxygen intake.
4. Eat healthy
We know that eating healthy improves the way we feel, but how? Well, certain foods contain properties that can improve blood oxygen levels, allowing oxygen to move more freely throughout your body so your body can work at its optimum level.
For instance, foods high in chlorophyll, such as raw fruits, green vegetables, seeds and nuts, have cleansing properties that clear the blood of toxins, and they also stimulate red blood cell production improving blood oxygen levels over time.
Additionally, foods high in protein such as beans, nuts, spinach, asparagus, green beans, potatoes and avocados can boost your hemoglobin count, so your red blood cells can carry oxygen to tissue throughout the body. Even lean meats like fish and chicken can also boost hemoglobin levels. However, make sure to limit processed meats, as recent research published in the National Library of Medicine found that a diet rich in processed meat may make it harder to breathe, particularly if you have asthma.
So, the very thing that you think is causing you breathing woes will actually improve your oxygen levels. Daily exercise consisting of a mixture of strength and cardio training will keep your oxygen levels up, your resting heart rate down, and in turn can increase those levels when not exercising.
Simply put, you need oxygen to exercise, and the more you exercise, the more oxygen your body will get. It’s a win, win!
6. Test your blood oxygen level
Even when doing all of the above, it is good to know where you stand regarding your blood oxygen level so that you have a good indicator of how much oxygen your body is getting.
Blood oxygen saturation (abbreviated SpO2) is a measure of how much oxygen the blood is carrying. Due to the fact that our bodies breathe voluntarily, and do a pretty good job at keeping the levels where they need to be, it is safe to say that generally speaking, more than 89 percent of your red blood should be carrying oxygen at any given time.
Sometimes, however, our bodies aren’t working as well as they should. Perhaps you have a heart rate variability that is too high (pumping too much blood) or too low (not pumping enough blood). Either of these can cause an imbalance in the amount of oxygen being distributed throughout your body putting strain on the heart, lungs, and liver and keeping the body from functioning properly.
By getting your SpO2 tested, you will be able to know why your breathing is so labored during certain exercises so that you can make the proper adjustments to help make sure that you will be able to breathe much easier during exercise as you move forward to a healthier and happier you.