Proper Breathing During Exercise

One common question for fitness beginners is how to breathe correctly when exercising. Breathing may seem so natural and involuntary that one may wonder what there is to discuss. However, the reality is that instructors need to continually remind their trainees to breathe, as most people tend to hold their breath when working out. In addition to holding your breath, other issues include breathing too quickly or too shallowly. Breathing may significantly affect how well you do a workout, the connection between your body and mind, and even the exercise itself.

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The importance of breathing during workouts

Once our workout gets intense, we tend to hold our breath in order to gain more core strength. This may work, but it is not good, since our body needs a constant supply of oxygen to feed our muscles. This may justify why we breathe heavily and steadily as we run or walk. Interrupting the oxygen supply to our bodies puts us at risk for dizziness, hernia, muscle cramps, and other problems that may make us fall.

Tips on breathing properly during various exercises

The following are some things you need to know to breathe appropriately during some of the common types of activities:

Cardio (aerobic) exercise

While doing cardio exercises like running, walking, biking, and others, you need to try to breathe deeply. It is up to you if you want to breathe deeply using your mouth or nose, or both combined. For most runners, mouth breathing provides the body with the best amount of oxygen. You should consciously try to keep your breathing deep and relaxed. The best idea is to practice diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, while doing cardio activities, as opposed to shallow chest breaths, which we do while resting. To do diaphragm breathing, relax your abdomen slightly, breathe deeply (your belly—not your chest—will rise and fall as you inhale and exhale, respectively). Continue this technique at your own rate, so you can fulfill your oxygen requirement during exercise. You can practice this by lying on your back, placing a book on your abdomen, and watching it rise and fall as you inhale and exhale. This will need focus, but with time, it will become easier as you continue to work out. Find a comfortable pattern and adhere to it.

Strength training

Strength training, like cardio, raises the body’s need for oxygen, thereby resulting in a faster breathing rate. Nevertheless, many tend to hold their breath while doing strenuous workouts like weightlifting, a technique called the Valsalva maneuver. This is dangerous, as it reduces blood supply to the brain and causes a spike in blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, and other problems. During strength training, the most vital thing to keep in mind is to breathe. You should not hold your breath at any one time, and should be conscious of how you are breathing throughout, be it through your nose or mouth. Fitness experts recommend you exhale during exertion phase (hardest phase of the workout, like lifting, curling, or pushing the weight) and inhale during the easier phase. All the same, you should not let yourself be bothered by when to breathe in or out. It is better to breathe in reverse than to not do it at all.


After working out, you need to stretch to help your body relax. Breathing correctly during this phase is crucial to get your body back to a resting state and to help get rid of the waste products from the exercise. Contrary to the common practice of holding breath or taking short shallow breathes when stretching, you should take deep, diaphragmatic breaths. Experts recommend breathing in and out through your nose while stretching.


Proper breathing while working out is crucial. It helps you to be comfortable during the activities, keeps complications (like dizziness) at bay, and allows you to reap maximum benefits from your workouts.