Do you struggle with shortness of breath when you exercise? On the same token, do you feel shortness of breath when you did yard work most recently? The solution to this issue may be a lot easier than you think!
With the headliner of this newsletter encompassing the topics of breathing and yard-work, I’m going to share a few things that most people don’t think about when doing yard-work…giving you the upper-hand on having the nicest looking yard this summer.
Let’s start with a bit of anatomy shall we:
|Pathway of air entering the body:||Pathway of food entering the body:|
Developmentally, the nose is connected to the respiratory system and the mouth is connected to the digestive system. As shown in the graphic, since both of these passageways travel within the same part of the body it is important that both are kept separate. After all, you would never consider eating through your nose! So why do so many of us breathe through our mouths?
Breathing through the nose actually prepares the air for use in your body – it acts as a natural air filter, air humidifier, and air warmer, which all allow the lungs to easily absorb the oxygen and make for a smoother diffusion process. When breathing through the mouth, none of this occurs.
Breathing through your nose forces you to use your diaphragm. The diaphragm is actually the body’s main respiratory muscle. Besides a respiratory muscle though, it is also an important stabilizing muscle for the spine and trunk. When thinking about breathing using your nose and your diaphragm, your belly should expand like a balloon would during the inhale, and then deflate upon exhaling (bringing the diaphragm to a more neutral position).
Some of you may think that you need to suck your belly in. Sucking your belly in drastically reduces the stability throughout the core and trunk, causing a tightening of the abdominal wall muscles. This is bad because we want these muscles to be relaxed when we are at rest (go and watch a baby breathe while they are asleep).
However, when we are doing strenuous activities, like exercising or YARD WORK, we want to make sure that we keep the core tight. BUT, we will never tell patients to suck their belly in when doing any type of loaded movements. Instead, push the belly out and use your core strength to drive your rib cage downward towards your feet.
Go ahead and try this the next time you are doing yard work:
Before bending over to weed or before grabbing the rake, brace your core first. Brace it just enough so that you can still hold a conversation with someone or sing a song (this will ensure that you are still breathing diaphragmatically). Take a few breaths in through your nose (expanding your belly) then let the breath go through your mouth. Continue this cycle for about 5 breaths. Then when you are ready, continue this flow as you begin weeding or raking.
Hopefully you will notice a difference in strength, stability, and your ability to breathe more easily – allowing you to work harder and smarter on making your yard “gold-medal” worthy!
As always, if you feel that you would benefit from correcting your breathing patterns at rest or during exercise, please consult a healthcare professional to get started.
Until next time, breathe deep and breathe easy 🙂
– Dr. Ashley