Shortness of Breath and Exercise


Many people take breathing for granted because of the hustle of daily life. They are

distracted from the mindfulness of breathing because it is an involuntary function of the body. Even under stressful situations or emotional unrest, many people are still not mindful of the rapid, shallow chest breaths because they focus on the immediate circumstances. Periodically, I interrupt my thoughts to elicit a conscious effort only to realize my shallow intake of air and the slight expansion of the lungs. The symptom is a common problem; 1 in every 4 people who visit the doctor has dyspnea, according to the Cleveland Clinic Centre.


Dyspnea (a.k.a shortness of breath) can be very distressing depending on the level of the condition. The effort of trying to breathe properly can be a stressful and exhausting effort, and it can hamper the simplest of activity.


Stressful conditions of a day can lure some people to relax on the couch in front of a television.  There is nothing wrong with that method of relaxation. Your body may be at rest, but it does nothing to unite the body-mind connection. In other words, there is no equilibrium between the inner state of the body and mindfulness of deep breathing.


What is shortness of breath?

Shortness of breath is the lack of air flow in the lungs. Breathing difficulties can occur from chronic lung disease, anxiety, asthma, respiratory illness, bronchitis, blocked airways, or other medical conditions. Such breathing conditions can range from mild to severe, according to Medical News Today.


Regardless of the seriousness of one’s condition, breathing deeply has many benefits. Here is to name a few.


Benefits of Deep Breathing

Relaxes muscles by reducing tension.

Slows the heart rate and promotes better blood flow.

Reduces stress and decreases blood pressure.

Relaxes the mind and body to encourage a good night’s sleep.

Strengthens the heart and lungs.

Reduces anxiety and promote internal calmness.


Shortness of breath and exercise

Excluding medical conditions, breathing difficulties can also occur when engaged in overly strenuous exercises – that feeling when you just cannot breathe in enough air. To some degree, many of us have experienced that feeling – even if it is from a stuffy nose. Sedentary individuals are likely to experience shortness of breath during simple exercises because they are just out of shape.

Someone who has experienced exercise-induce shortness of breath may not necessarily be attributed to asthma. They “were simply overexerting themselves, and not fit for the exercise they attempted,” according to Tim Stewart, a physician assistant at the Asthma Centers in Denver.


What can you do about breathing efficiently while exercising?

In many cases, one can control dyspnea by using inhalers/puffers or other methods

provided by a physician. Other alternative methods can include engaging in yoga and/or deep breathing exercise classes as a solution. What deep breathing does is that it slows the respiratory rate. There are many breathing techniques which you can practice anywhere at no cost. The following are some breathing exercise methods:

Deep Breathing is also called diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing, or abdominal breathing. This type of exercise is about inhaling deeply to fill the lungs with oxygen, which slows the heart rate. This practice can be done when you feel stressed, or for daily relaxation.

Yoga: Pranayama is just one of several breathing technique that increases breathing awareness and control. This will help to stabilize and calm the inner-self according to the Yoga Journal, Pranayama. This is recommended once a day for 5 - 10 minutes for beginners.

Tai Chi is a graceful exercise that consists of fluid hand-eye movements which integrates the mind and body. It is accompanied by deep breathing to promote calmness and helps to alleviate stress. Usually, these classes are done for approximately 60 minutes.

Cardio/aerobics can also help improve some types of breathing difficulty. What cardio does is this; when you take in air, your lungs expand and increase its capacity. It allows you to breathe deeper, and strengthens the lungs and heart. Prolonged cardio or aerobics can be done in many disciplines, at least 3-4 times a week, for about 45-60 minutes.


How to do Deep Breathing

Myriads of deep breathing techniques exist and require a different process; for

example, Yoga, thoracic, diaphragmatic, clavicular, and roll breathing – to name a few – according to research.


The following is a simple belly breathing exercise method provided by the HealthLinkBC:

Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.

Put one hand on your belly, just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest. 

Take a deep breath in through your nose and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.


Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in and use it to push all the air out.


Do this breathing 3 to 10 times. Take your time for each breath.

Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.


Several years ago, I took a deep breathing class. During the class, my active mind wandered under the coziness of a scented environment. As my body surrendered to relaxation, the more I inhaled deep breaths, my mind became quiet, and I could feel the air entering my lungs and expanding them. In my state, I could hear the deep wheezing of inhaling and the exhaling of air. Intoxicated by air and the faint scent of aroma, my mind transcended to a calming place as if the disturbance of the day never existed. Try it!


Avaneil John

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