How to Breathe for Added Benefits When Walking
Walking and breathing are two things we do without any need for thought. Indeed we have been breathing since birth and walking since about the age of one–so we have had a lot of practice! However, just because something is easy for you does not necessarily mean you are doing it in the best or most efficient way 🙂 I have a friend who, in her 60’s, discovered she was walking with an ill-advised gait due to an old ankle injury–and this altered gait was causing other issues!
So you never know 😉
Breathing when walking just happens naturally– you breathe in, you breathe out. However, there is a way to breathe when you walk that will allow you to gain benefits from walking besides weight loss and getting fit. These benefits include lowering your stress and increasing your endurance.
Suggested Breathing Techniques
While there is no set rule for breathing while walking, most experts agree that diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, as it is sometimes called, provides the most oxygen to your lungs.
Diaphragmatic breathing while walking is simple.
- Relax your abdominal muscles slightly.
- Breathe deeply enough so that your stomach extends out on the inhale and contracts in on the exhale.
- Adjust the quickness of your breathing pattern as necessary to meet your oxygen needs while walking.
Pushing your stomach out on the inhale allows you to get much more air into your lungs; using your diaphragm on the exhale pushes more air out of your lungs. Whether you breathe through your mouth or nose is a personal preference. If you do breathe through your nose and you find you need more air, switch to breathing through your mouth.
I personally like to breathe in through my nose, out through my mouth. Seems like several exercise dvd’s I have used have suggested that 🙂
Some people like to focus on the rhythm of breathing while exercising. Breathe in deeply for three steps and exhale for three steps. By focusing on this rhythmic breathing, it becomes a sort of meditation practice or a point of focus.
Using these two types of conscious breathing techniques when you walk offer an extra boost of health benefits–here’s how:
When your body senses an increase in heart rate and more rapid, deep breathing, as when you walk briskly and use diaphragmatic breathing, it releases a chemical in the brain called endorphins. Endorphins, not only relive stress, but they also induce relaxation, improve mood and increase self-esteem. It’s no wonder many call it the natural feel-good drug.
Meditative breathing as you walk makes your walk….can you guess? A meditation 🙂 And, of course, meditation lowers stress.
Since both of the suggested techniques involve deeper breathing than we might do naturally, they help increase your overall endurance. By breathing deeply, you get the maximum amount of oxygen to your lungs which in turn deliver said oxygen to your muscles via your bloodstream. This allows your muscles to work harder and longer than would otherwise be possible if you were not breathing deeply.
Just Get Out and Walk
Regardless of your goals — weight loss, fitness, relaxation or relieving stress– walking is an exercise that can be done virtually anywhere; all that is required is a pair of walking shoes and the desire to get out and walk. So take a deep breath and get started!
Better yet–pick up this mug from my Gearbubble shop and use it as a reminder of the info shared here today 🙂