The Norm Today

Most people breathe through their mouths when they exercise. In fact, some regard this as the appropriate way to breathe during a workout or run. The line of thought goes like this: the brain and muscles need oxygen, and breathing through the mouth brings more oxygen into the body than breathing through the nose. Other people, especially runners, say that breathing through the mouth is better because it is a more relaxed form, allowing for better performance.

However, biologically and in practice, these trains of thought don’t hold up. You may wonder why and the answer is probably unexpected. But it is true. Carbon dioxide and nitric oxide are needed for proper breathing.

Efficiency Rather than Volume

The body actually uses around 20% of the oxygen in a given breath. So increasing our air intake won’t do much of anything. The answer to increased performance is to use the oxygen the body takes in more efficiently. This is where the carbon dioxide and nitric oxide come in to play.

Story of Nitric Oxide

The mucus membrane in the sinuses produces nitric oxide. Though outside the human body this gas is quite dangerous, when it is produced by the body it is very helpful. As a person breathes in, the nitric oxide is taken into the airway and lungs. The gas dilates the air passages and blood vessels, improving oxygen absorption and circulation. If a person doesn’t breathe through the nose, nitric oxide is not introduced into the respiratory system.

Story of Carbon Dioxide

The carbon dioxide also dilates the blood vessels helping to increase circulation and oxygen absorption in the muscles. However, it is introduced into the system by a different method—through the air we breathe. If a person breathes through his or her mouth, he or she expels a lot more carbon dioxide. This leads to the blood vessels constricting. But with nasal breathing, the carbon dioxide stays in the body longer because of the back pressure the nasal passage creates on the exhale.

Why are Dilated Blood Vessels Good?

When your blood vessels are dilated, the vessel walls are thinner, allowing for more oxygen and nutrients to pass through to the muscles. This of course gives the muscles what they need to function. Additionally, since the heart doesn’t have to work harder to push more blood through constricted blood vessels to feed the muscles, dilated blood vessels lowers blood pressure and heart rate. Lower blood pressure and heart rate leads to other benefits: the body is able to exercise for longer periods of time; the body is able to work harder; the body feels relaxed.

nasal breathing dilates blood vessels

More Athletes and Trainers Are Turning to Nasal Breathing

Breathing through the nose during exercise isn’t anything new. Yoga and other practices have long used nasal breathing. Now more doctors and athletes recognize its benefits. Dr. Roy Sugarman, director of applied neuroscience for EXOS and mindset coach for the US Men’s National Soccer Team, says that since carbon dioxide saturation in the blood increases and breathing slows during nasal breathing, it “creates a calming effect” for the athlete[1]. Dr. John Doulliard, former Director of Player Development for the New Jersey Nets, has performed several studies which support nasal breathing. In the studies, he found that during nasal breathing, the body was less stressed, was able to go farther, and was able to get into “the zone” or “the flow” easier[2].

How Can I Implement Nasal Breathing into My Exercise?

Forming the habit can be difficult. Many people find that when they do their normal exercise routine, they have to breathe through their mouths. When you try to adopt nasal breathing and find yourself having the urge to breathe through your mouth, slow things down. Condition your body for the change.

Of course, if your nose is congested or blocked up, it will be difficult to breathe through it. Congestion comes from increased mucus production and swollen nasal and sinus tissues due to inflammation. Luckily, there is a safe and effective solution that opens up the airway—Xlear Nasal Spray. Xlear is a hypertonic solution that thins mucus and reduces swelling in the sinuses without the use of steroids (the common go-to treatment for inflamed sinuses). The solution is non-medicated and safe to use as much as needed. Athletes who practice nasal breathing during their exercise have observed how Xlear Nasal Spray helps them in their workout to breathe easily.
And just like these athletes, when you form the habit of nasal breathing during exercise, you will find you can go longer and harder than ever before.


How Breathing Right Will Improve Your Athletic Performance
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