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The effects of breathing exercises on cardiorespiratory endurance

Page history last edited by Rashid Al-Hitmi 11 years, 7 months ago

First Author: RachelKl

Second Author: RashidA

Take a Deep Breath, and Think it Over!


When we are going through stressful situations, we don't really stop to think about what is happening to our bodies. Our minds are on almost everything but our body's functions. As a result, those functions often become irregular, which can be unhealthy. If we don't concentrate on all aspects of our body during these situations, we have fewer chances to succeed in whatever we try to accomplish. One of the many physiological functions directly affected by stress is our breathing. Even when we are in low stress situations, few people are in a habit of natural, full breathing which is needed for maintaining a good mental and physical state. Proper breathing is essential for sustaining life and cleansing inner body systems. By learning proper breathing techniques stressful situations may be handled better and overall mental and physical health will be improved, especially cardiorespiratory endurace. [1]




What is Cardiorespiratory Endurance and why is it important??

According to the CDC, Cardiorespiratory endurance is the ability of the body's circulatory and respiratory systems to supply fuel during sustained physical activity. [2]Cardiorespiratory endurance exercise helps the body become more efficient and better able to cope with physical challenges. It also lowers risk for many chronic diseases and enhances the heart's health.[3]


Cardio exercises are essential to improving one’s health. To improve one’s cardiovascular fitness, there are three key words to remember: Duration, Intensity and Frequency. Duration is how long one does a cardio exercise continuously in one session. Ideally, cardio training should last between 20 and 60 minutes per session. A beginner who has not had any experience in cardio training can start from10 minutes. Once he or she is comfortable with that length of time, then the duration can be lengthened by a few more minutes at a time. For instance, a beginner can do 2 minutes of light walking, followed by 6 minutes of brisk walking, and 2 then 2 minutes of cooling down. An advanced individual usually does 10 minutes of warm-up exercises, then 40 minutes of alternating high and low intensity cardio exercises, and then 10 minutes of cooling down. Intensity is how hard one is doing his or her exercises. Beginners can aim for about 55% of their maximum heart rates, while advanced individuals usually aim for 65-90% of their maximum heart rates. As for frequency, exercise sessions must not be spaced out for more than 48 hours after the last session, as one loses the positive benefits of exercise.[4]


Endurance exercise enhances the heart's health by:

  • Maintaining or increasing the heart's own blood and oxygen supply
  • Increasing the heart muscle's function, so it pumps more blood per beat, keeping the heart rate lower during exercise
  • Strengthening the heart's contractions
  • Increasing the heart's cavity size in young adults
  • Increasing blodd volume so the heart pushes more blood into the circulatory system during each contraction
  • Reducing blood pressure[5]


Cardiorespiratory endurance exercise also improves cellular metabolism by:

  • Increasing the number of capillaries in the muscles
  • Training muscles to make the most of oxygen and fuel so they work more efficiently
  • Increasing the size of and number of mitochondria in muscle cells, increasing cells' energy capacity
  • Preventing glycogen depletion and increasing the muscles' ability to use lactic acid and fat as fuels




Now that we see how important it is to be in great cardiovascular fitness, here are some breathing exercises to get you on your way!


Exercise 1:The Stimulating Breath

The Stimulating Breath is adapted from a popular yoga breathing technique. Its aim is to raise vital energy and increase alertness.

  • Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Your breaths in and out should be equal in duration, but as short as possible. This is a noisy breathing exercise
  • Try for three in-and-out breath cycles per second. This produces a quick movement of the diaphragm, suggesting a bellows. Breathe normally after each cycle
  • Do not do for more than 15 seconds on your first try. Each time you practice the Stimulating Breath, you can increase your time by five seconds or so, until you reach a full minute

If done properly, you may feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a good workout. You should feel the effort at the back of the neck, the diaphragm, the chest and the abdomen. Try this breathing exercise the next time you need an energy boost and feel yourself reaching for a cup of coffee.


Exercise 2: The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise

This exercise is simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight
  • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths


Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.

This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice. Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.


Exercise 3: Breath Counting

If you want to get a feel for this challenging work, try your hand at breath counting, a deceptively simple technique much used in Zen practice.

Sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight and head inclined slightly forward. Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then let the breath come naturally without trying to influence it. Ideally it will be quiet and slow, but depth and rhythm may vary.

  • To begin the exercise, count "one" to yourself as you exhale
  • The next time you exhale, count "two," and so on up to "five"
  • Then begin a new cycle, counting "one" on the next exhalation

Never count higher than "five," and count only when you exhale. You will know your attention has wandered when you find yourself up to "eight," "12," even "19."

Try to do 10 minutes of this form of meditation.[6]


            Here are some more tips that will help improve one’s cardiovascular fitness:




             1. Stop smoking – this is a killer habit that will put one more at risk for heart attack and stroke. This is aside from the damage that cigarette smoke does to the lungs.

            2.  Exercise regularly – the heart muscle is also developed during exercise, and this gets more blood and oxygen into the body.

            3.  Eat foods rich in potassium and omega 3 fatty acids – they are good for the heart.

            4.  Lower your stress levels – We all lead very stressful lives. However, we can find the time to de-stress. One can engage in a hobby and find time for the hobby after a stressful day.[7]






  1. http://www.coedu.usf.edu/zalaquett/Help_Screens/breath.htm
  2. http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/glossary/index.html
  3. Fahey, Thomas D.; Insel, Paul M.; and Roth, Walton T.: Fit & Well: Core Concepts and Labs in Physical Fitness and Wellness. Page 63.
  4. http://www.building-muscle101.com/how-to-improve-cardio-respiratory-fitness.html
  5. Fahey, Thomas D.; Insel, Paul M.; and Roth, Walton T.: Fit & Well: Core Concepts and Labs in Physical Fitness and Wellness. Page 63.
  6. http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html
  7. http://www.building-muscle101.com/how-to-improve-cardio-respiratory-fitness.html

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