The Effects of Deep Breathing

Although improper breathing technique can have negative effects on health, with regular practice you can train your body to breathe more efficiently. This is important, as poor breathing habits can actually affect how you are able to breathe. When the muscles surrounding the rib cage get less oxygen, they lose elasticity and become weak. This makes breathing more difficult and prevents adequate levels of oxygen from reaching the bloodstream, thereby affecting your overall health.

Improves Pulmonary Function

Shallow chest breathing delivers less oxygen to the blood, which means that less oxygen is being delivered to the body’s tissues and organs. But according to the Center on Aging Studies at the University of Missouri, studies indicate that normal aging already reduces the level of oxygen in the blood by about 20 percent. When you take rapid, shallow breaths, the lungs do not expand enough to allow for maximum oxygen transfer to the blood. On the other hand, deep breathing contracts the diaphragm pushing it down, causing the abdomen to expand. Pressure inside the chest pulls air into the lungs. Whereas chest breathing only fills the middle and upper sections of the lungs with air, abdominal breathing draws air into the lower lobes of the lungs where most of the oxygen transfer takes place.

Improves Lymph Flow

By helping to expand the lungs more fully, deep breathing also improves the flow of lymph fluid, which aids in preventing infection. Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN Nurse Practitioner and co-founder of the Women to Women Clinic in Yarmouth, Maine, explains that the lymphatic system works similarly to the circulatory system. While blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells, lymph rids the body of disease-causing bacteria, infectious viruses, foreign substances, dead white blood cells, toxins and other cellular wastes. Although lymph must keep flowing in order to eliminate metabolic waste from the body, unlike the circulatory system the lymphatic system does not have its own pump. Instead, lymph fluid depends on the mechanism of breathing to help move it around.

Relieves Stress

Shallow breathing is often a sign of too much stress. As a result, less oxygen is getting to the brain and muscles in the body. This in turn increases physical tension. One way to relax your body is to concentrate on your breathing. Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic suggest deep breathing as a relaxation technique to manage stress headaches. The key is to focus on leaving your tensions behind as you breathe through the diaphragm, filling your abdomen with air. Deep breathing can help to reduce the severity and frequency of stress-related tension headaches, slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure and decrease fatigue.

Aids Weight Loss

While it’s no secret that speeding up the metabolism contributes to weight loss by burning more fat, YogatoHealth.com describes how the deep breathing exercises that are part of yoga can help you to lose weight. Deep breathing makes it easier for the body to get the oxygen it needs for the metabolic processes to work efficiently. Proper breathing technique is essential for effective aerobic exercise as well, and can increase energy so that you find it easier to engage in more vigorous physical activity. While regular exercise is a crucial component of any weight loss program, deep breathing can help relieve stress, giving you the willpower you need to stick to it.

About this Author

Amber Keefer has more than 25 years\’ experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering health, fitness and women\’s issues published in Family Digest Magazine, Chicago Parent and Woman\’s Touch. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.