Breathing for better health and fitness

Did you know that how you breathe when training can affect not only your performance but your overall health?

So how exactly should we be breathing for better health? Well most of us don’t breathe properly, just look at how rushed our days are and how busy our minds can be. We never take a moment to sit back and deeply notice what is happening with our breath. We take for granted the fact that our bodies can do this on their own. It is time to take back this powerful bodily function and use it to maximize health and fitness.

NOTE: absolutely any activity you do needs sufficient oxygen supply otherwise it is just a nonstarter.

Think about the last time you exercised, think about each exercise and how you executed it.

Do you remember how you breathed through it? Or maybe you paid no attention at all to this while you focused on the task at hand. I must admit, it is easy to let your mind wonder and forget about this vital performance enhancer. So, what does good breathing look like:

It is not shallow and, in your chest, but rather deep and should expand your whole stomach area

This should be breathing all the way into your obliques, intercostals, diaphragm and transverse abdominis. I know we are taught to pull our bellies in to make them look flatter through the day. But do you realize this completely affects good healthy breathing? And as much as we are taught to brace during certain movements to protect our backs, do we allow breath back in properly after the exercise?

*Not breathing properly will affect mood, increase stress and decrease stamina

Your body likens not breathing properly as a sign that you are in trouble

Basically almost like being in fight or flight mode. You stay in a sympathetic state – where you hold inflammation and sit in survival mode. Overtime this is going to affect sleep, hormones, appetite and more. Breathing for better health is about improving all of these aspects.

NOTE: this should start as a practice outside of the gym.

Now where do you start?

It is as simple as noticing where your breath should be going. So place a hand on your belly and one on your chest. When you inhale, focus on your belly and ribs expanding not your chest. Almost like you are filling a balloon in your stomach. This may feel odd at first as so many of us are out of the habit of proper breathing! When you exhale imagine squeezing all that air out of the balloon in your belly, again without chest movement.

I normally recommend doing this as part of your morning routine, when you are stressed or overwhelmed. And when you are starting your workout, to get into the habit of nice proper breaths as you train. Obviously do this according to the movement but never hold your breath through training.

Here is hoping these tips help boost your health and fitness this month!

Until next time,



Isilda Da Costa is a personal trainer and women’s fitness specialist who, if she isn’t at the gym training, is busy researching the most up to date information for growing those muscles. She has combined her love of everything healthy by being a health coach in her own health shop in Swaziland. Follow along on @izzy.healthandfitness

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