It can be difficult to think of breathing as an exercise. We think of it as part of the process, to be sure, but only insofar as we need to breathe properly to get the most out of our other exercises. The truth of the matter is that many of the things we hope to get out of exercise can actually be gained via deep breathing alone. Granted, you won’t burn many calories (or much fat), and you’re not going to tone up your muscles just through breathing. But many of the more basic benefits of exercise can be gained via these types of practices.
More specifically, here are a few of the many reasons to practice deep breathing techniques whenever you’re able to.
1. Improve Weight Loss
We noted above that deep breathing exercises won’t directly burn too many calories or too much fat. But they can still help with weight loss. This is because, as another article on this very topic points out, deep breathing draws more oxygen into our lungs, which increases the capacity of oxygen delivered to our cells. Basically, the idea is that this keeps our cells in an aerobic state, which encourages the body to burn fat instead of energy or muscle. In a way, you can think of deep breathing in this context as being able to trick the body into acting as if aerobic exercise is occurring.
2. Ease Pressure & Frustration
Most of us will accept the notion that deep breathing is a calming exercise if nothing else. But we rarely think about what all that entails. Another writer actually delved into this while examining deep breathing as a handy exercise for gamers, who often keep themselves busy for long, high-stress sessions and need to relieve frustration. In that analysis it was noted that psychologists say frustration and anger prevent us from making logical decisions; we also know that the same emotions can raise our blood pressure. Deep breathing can solve all of these issues and more by chemically reducing blood pressure and forcing the mind to “take a beat,” so to speak.
3. Strengthen The Immune System
In researching for this piece, we came across another longer list of potential benefits of breathing that included everything from supporting good posture to actually improving the quality of one’s blood. It’s certainly worth a read if you’re curious about some of the smaller or more nuanced perks of these exercises. To wrap up this piece however we’ll note what the same article said about the immune system: that the more oxygen is traveling through the bloodstream, the more the body is enriched to metabolize nutrients and vitamins. And since these aspects of the diet are responsible in part for maintaining an immune system and warding off illnesses, it follows that deep breathing can fairly directly improve the immune system.
There are a lot of different deep breathing exercises out there, and for the most part they go a little bit beyond simply closing your eyes and taking long breaths. But they’re also easy to practice and to work into a busy day in five- or ten-minute increments here and there. You may be surprised what kind of effect even that kind of effort can have.