How to Breathe: Why breathing is as Important as your Strength and Cardio Training

I have seen breathing all over social media lately, and it has been a whole chapter in the courses i have been doing online (i am always doing one course or another!). I also saw a wonderful series of posts by one of our favorite local physio’s Activate Physio for Women on breathing, and thought i would join in on the conversation!

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Breathing well allows us to use our brain more effectively⁠ ⁠ Many bodily functions are essential for survival…..but breathing is our lifeline.⁠ ⁠ Breathing is the process of moving air into and out of the lungs to facilitate gas exchange with the environment, mostly by bringing in oxygen and flushing out carbon dioxide.⁠ ⁠ Precise regulation of breathing is crucial for us to remain healthy…..but many things can go wrong.⁠ ⁠ Breathing can be disrupted by ‘thinking’, ‘feeling’ and ‘experiencing’⁠ ⁠ Biomechanical and biochemical factors can also have an impact on our breathing.⁠ ⁠ The body needs to maintain normal pH……as this influences every organ in the body. ⁠ High CO2 = high acidity⁠ Low CO2 = low acidity⁠ ⁠ CO2 regulates our rate and depth of breathing, controls blood flow to the BRAIN and governs activity on our nervous tissue.⁠ ⁠ Psychological influence on breathing: ⁠ ⁠ Stress Response: associated with ‘fast upper chest breathing patterns’ which is dysfunctional.⁠ ⁠ Relaxation Response: associated with our rational brain and slow nose breathing.⁠ ⁠ Keep tuned for more on normal and dysfunctional breathing patterns⁠ ⁠ When in doubt, breathe out.⁠ ⁠ (02) 9948 0004⁠⁠ ⁠ #activatephysioforwomen⁠ #pelvicfloor⁠ #cancerrehab⁠ #brookvale⁠ #warringahmall⁠ #breathing⁠

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Breathing is so important! It seems like such a small thing, because we rarely think about it, but think about it now… what happens if you don’t breath?? Less than optimal breathing patterns can contribute to a wide range of dysfunctions. Shallow breathing, for example, can overload your neck and upper back muscles and contribute to neck pain and headaches. It can also mean you NEVER get an optimal breath, which means you’re always existing in a less-than-fully-oxygenated state.

In the gym, we assess for 3 main breathing patterns:

  1. Shallow, chesty breath
  2. Belly breathing
  3. Intercostal breath

The intercostal breath is ideal, because the ribs move and accommodate the increased volume caused by breathing in. This has a knock-on effect of reducing loads on the pelvic floor and increasing the mobility of the thoracic spine! If someone shallow-breaths, they’re often experiencing chronic stress, and neck and shoulder pain. They’ll be “block-like” throughout their torso and this means that when their lungs fill with air, the internal organs are pushed down, not out.

Belly breathing isn’t ideal because… where are your lungs located???? not in your guts! If your belly is distending every breath, you’re lengthening the tissue between your abdominal’s every breath. If you have a pre-existing diastasis (separation), this will exacerbate it, or in the very least slow it’s healing post birth.

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What are the symptoms of dysfunctional breathing?⁠ ⁠ Dysfunctional breathing is ‘inappropriate breathing which is persistent enough to cause symptoms, with no apparent organic cause’ ⁠ Clifton-Smith, Rowley, 2011.⁠ ⁠ Causes of Dysfunctional breathing:⁠ Biomechanical⁠ – Nasal problems⁠ – Mouth breathing⁠ – Posture⁠ – Holding in your tummy!!⁠ Biochemical⁠ – Respiratory disorders i.e. COPD, asthma⁠ – Cardiac i.e. heart failure⁠ – Metabolic i.e. liver/kidney disease, diabetes, eating disorders⁠ – Drugs i.e. caffeine, alcohol, recreational drugs⁠ – Physiological i.e. altitude, hormonal, pain, temperature⁠ Psychological⁠ – Fear, anxiety, depression⁠ – Personality traits i.e. perfectionist / high achiever⁠ – Suppressed emotions i.e. anger and fear⁠ ⁠ What are the main symptoms?⁠ – Foggy brain⁠ – Chest pain⁠ – Blurred vision⁠ – Shortness of breath⁠ – Bloating in stomach⁠ – Palpitations⁠ – Cold hands and feet⁠ – Dizziness⁠ ⁠ Within 24 hours of starting a dysfunctional breathing pattern the body will adapt and maintain this dysfunction until it is addressed.⁠ ⁠ If you have concerns about any of the above…..give us a call to see if we can help.⁠ ⁠ (02) 9948 0004⁠⁠ ⁠ #activatephysioforwomen⁠ #pelvicfloor⁠ #cancerrehab⁠ #brookvale⁠ #warringahmall⁠ #breathing⁠ ⁠

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So we have mentioned the physiological benefits of breathing above, but what about the mental, hormonal, and other health benefits from being able to breath? Deep breaths can quell your stress response – boosting your immune, increasing feelings of well being, and staving off depression! In the very least, this will help your client train better, and feel better about coming to training, which is pretty good for business! Reducing stress also reduces associated hormones, which can help your clients lose weight. Good breathing foundations will help your clients lift healthily, safely, feel better, and lose weight… pretty important, huh?

If you have any of the symptoms above, make sure you book in with a women’s heath physio to get EVERYTHING pelvic checked, including your breathing! You can look up your local one here. You can book in for a FREE assessment with us here!

If you’re a personal trainer, you can do a whole course on Breathing Better here. You can read more on why the breath must come first with your training here (and send that link to your trainer if you’re a mum!). Breathing assessments are included in our Modern Post Natal Assessment and Exercise course, which we deliver throughout Australia and New Zealand live, or virtually online.

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