Lifestyle

Exercise aids in breathing

The swimming instructor gathered her 6-year-old charges together and told them to take a deep breath then put their faces in the water to see how long they could hold their breath.

Breathing.

The doctor told the soon-to-be mother to take a deep breath and push. There came the baby.

Breathing.

We take breathing for granted because it is one of those automatic things our body does for us, something we do not usually have to think about.

Breathing is a function of our respiratory system, our mouth, nose, bronchials and lungs. This is the mechanical system that feeds our bodies oxygen. The oxygen flows via our blood stream to every cell in our body. With it the brain thinks more clearly, the heart and other organs work smoothly, the muscles contract and relax.

Pretty neat, isn’t it?

When our respiratory system works well, we generally feel well. There are two problems which can change this. One is illness and the other is “lazy” breathing. Yes, “lazy” – which, by the way, is not a medical term.

Lazy breathing is what most of us do. We use only about one-third of our lungs when we breathe. Mostly because we do not pay attention. We are rushed, stressed, tense, tired and do not realize we are depriving ourselves. Also, for women, we were taught to hold in our stomachs to look more attractive. Those tight belly muscles restrain the diaphragm from working well to assist breathing and the muscles on the front of our rib cages from moving.

That diaphragm is a vital muscle nestled between our lungs and bellies. Our tendency to shallow breathing has put it out of work, depriving it from helping us.

Put your hands on your belly and inhale deeply. Yes, your belly will pooch out a bit. Now exhale and gradually draw your belly in. When you relaxed your belly and inhaled the diaphragm muscle relaxed and sort of sagged down. When you exhaled it went to work, contracted and helped push stale air out of your lungs. It was working like it should.

While all of us need strong muscles to breath, some of us tend not to be active and we desperately need to work on our breathing. Even for those of us who have asthma, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, we can work to improve our breathing.

Try doing this exercise twice to improve your breathing:

• Sit comfortably with your hands on your belly, or lie down;

• Inhale through your nose as deeply as you can and let your belly move forward to the count of four;

• Hold your breath for the count of seven;

• Blow out for the count of eight.

This technique will strengthen the muscles of your belly, rib cage and your diaphragm. As you get more oxygen into your body, you will feel better.

Pay attention when you are vacuuming or gardening, to see that you are taking deep breaths. If you are an exerciser, remind yourself often to take deep breaths and you will find that it is easier to move.

If you are not an exerciser, now is the time to start. As you move you are sure to start breathing better. Seniors, let’s step out and learn how to breathe better.

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