Deep Breathing: how it can help with your physical and mental health as an athlete.

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If you're human, you have stress in your life! Even the most wonderful occasions can bring moments of tension, such as a family holiday or attending a sports game of your favourite team. Therefore it is inevitable that athletes will experience stress and at times high levels of it!


The body reacts to a stressful or threatening situation by releasing a flood of stress hormones, which rouse the body for emergency action! This response is too help save you from danger however your stressful situation may not necessarily be life-threatening. This repeated occurrence takes a toll on the body which is why it is important that we have stress-relieving strategies. There are exercises that we can do to help manage our body's stress response and some quicker than others such as the simple act of breathing!


Make a Healthy Habit of Deep Breathing:


Your lungs are responsible for dispersing oxygen into your blood, so that it can then be delivered to all of the vital areas. When we breathe in and out, it is our diaphragm (the muscle under our ribs) that expands and contracts to ensure we take in enough oxygen. Repeated short breaths over time can lead to a loss of elasticity for our lungs, which promotes constant shallow breaths being taken. This will limit the amount of oxygen that is making it's way around the body.


Benefits of Breathing Exercises:


1. Injury Recovery - Slow, deep breathing will increase the amount of oxygenated blood to the injury site, bringing nutrients to aid recovery time.


2. Improve Lung Capacity - Regular stretching of the lungs results in more available space when more oxygen is needed during intense exercise.


3. Relax the body/muscles - As previously mentioned in a stressful situation your body acts as if it is in danger, which can make you feel stiff and uncomfortable because your body has become roused and tense. Shallow breaths can cause more restriction and slow deep breaths will allow the body to loosen and in turn your muscles to relax.


4. Lower Blood Pressure - high blood pressure which can be associated with feeling overwhelmed due to stress or anxiety. High Blood pressure is a risk factor for many health problems. As already mentioned deep breathing helps with stress therefore can help to reduce blood pressure.


5. Help with Anxiety/Panic Attacks - A panic attack can be a very frightening situation where people tend to take short shallow breaths however this type of breathing does not do us any favours. As the body is in a state of fight or flight mode, deep controlled breathing can help to bring a sense of calm and relax you which can change how you feel physically and mentally.


Deep Breathing Exercises:


Practice breathing from your belly first:

  1. Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.

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

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

  4. 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.

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

  6. Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.

Next Steps:

  1. To start, put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest as in the belly breathing exercise.

  2. Take a deep, slow breath from your belly, and silently count to 4 as you breathe in.

  3. Hold your breath, and silently count from 1 to 7.

  4. Breathe out completely as you silently count from 1 to 8. Try to get all the air out of your lungs by the time you count to 8.

  5. Repeat 3 to 7 times or until you feel calm.

  6. Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.

You may feel light headed at times when you start to practice deep breathing, however the more you do it the better you will become and the better you will be at tackling stressful situations and high intensity exercise. Plus you start to benefit from the reduced stress and anxiety it can bring in your every day life!


We hope this blog post has helped you in some way. If you would like to find out more about MVP, and how we can support you in increasing your physical health and mental well-being through customise training programmes, then please email hello@projectmvp.co.uk.


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