Distinct’s Ultimate Health & Conditioning

The Importance of Nasal Breathing
October 13, 2006, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Breathing, fitness

I found this article on a forum I frequent now and again. They didn’t state their source or the copyright status, so I hope I don’t piss anyone off. If this article is yours, tell me and I’ll do what needs to be done!

Anyways, I’ve used the technique of nasal breathing for some time and I must say it really makes a world of difference, especially with weight lifting and other resistance training. This is a very good introduction to the technique.

Nasal Breathing – Secret Weapon
by Lisa Engles -track coach Silicon Valley Triathlon Club

I encourage everyone to use this month to begin the practice of
nasal breathing. You can think of nasal breathing as the `secret
weapon’ in your bag of training tools. Over the past five years,
I’ve used this technique both personally and with my athletes to
create incredible performance breakthroughs.

There’s one hook to nasal breathing: you have to be willing to set
aside your ego and allow your body to adapt to this technique. Which
means, for a short period of time it will seem as if you are getting
worse, instead of better with your running. This is precisely why I
introduce this technique during the off season. If you commit to
regular use of nasal breathing during every run that you do between
now and January, you will reap the rewards of this secret training

So what is nasal breathing and why is it so good for you? Nasal
breathing, just as the name implies, means to breathe only through
your nose during endurance activity (running and even cycling).
We’re all born into this world as nasal breathers which means that
we don’t possess the voluntary ability to breath through our mouth.
Mouth breathing is a learned response that is triggered by an
emergency stress. If an infant’s nose becomes obstructed, it begins
to suffocate and starts to cry. The crying forces air into the
mouth and through the lungs. Mouth breathing becomes a way to get
large quantities of air into the lungs quickly in order to deal with
survival. Once the emergency is over, the infant returns to
breathing through its nose.

We LEARN to breathe through our mouth as infants, and become
conditioned so that under the first signs of stress, including
exercise stress later in life we shift to our emergency mode of
breathing— through the mouth.

There are several important reasons WHY nasal breathing is so
beneficial to you and your overall performance in triathlon. They
are: 1. Our nose is made to breathe with 2. Nasal breathing
disarms the bodies stress response 3. There’s a direct correlation
between nasal breathing and heart rate (exertion levels). I’ll
discuss each briefly below.

Our Nose Is Made To Breath With

While this may sound like an obvious statement, the more important
implication is that our Mouth Is NOT made to breathe with! To give
you a quick anatomy lesson, the nose, with it’s intricate design,
allows for optimal respiration during rest and exercise. The inner
nose is made up of small ridges called turbinates which act as
turbines to swirl air into a refined stream that is suitable for
oxygen exchange. The entire passageway of the nose is lined with a
protective mucus membrane that keeps it moist and wards off
infection. The mucous membrane in combination with small hair like
cilia act to clean and filter incoming air. The air is warmed,
cooled, or moistened depending on the conditions, by our nasal

The mouth on the other hand, is a more direct emergency route. It
bypasses all preliminary phases, and the cold, dry, unfiltered air
is allowed to enter directly into the lungs.

The Nervous System Response to Nasal Breathing

When we breathe air directly from the mouth into the lungs, a
survival response is triggered in the nervous system. As a result,
a fight-or-flight reaction is activated causing the release of
adreneline and cortisol which are both degenerative hormones. They
contain waste products called free radicals, which are believed to
be the leading cause of aging, cancer, disease and death. In
addition, the body responds to this stress by Storing Fat and
burning sugar. So if we can train our body to handle more stress
without responding to it as an emergency (via nasal breathing),
we’ll have taken a huge step in the fight against fat, aging and

Breathing through the nose stimulates the parasympathetic nervous
system which calms the mind and rejuvenates the body.

The Correlation Between Breath Rate and Heart Rate

Probably the most frustrating and difficult aspect of nasal
breathing for beginners is that initially, it feels like you’re
breathing through two, tiny cocktail straws . The passage way from
the nose to the lungs is much smaller than from the mouth to the
lungs, so until you’ve developed a strong diaphragm that is able to
effectively pull air into the lower lobes of the lungs, you will
feel like you’re not getting enough air.

I see this as a blessing in disguise. By this point in the season,
most of us are over trained and NEED to slow down. Nasal breathing
will force you to slow down in the beginning, giving your body the
appropriate rest that it needs and deserves after months of hard
work. As with any muscle, the more you use it the stronger it
becomes. Through nasal breathing, the diaphragm will become a
stronger, more efficient muscle, making nasal breathing considerably
easier with time and practice.

Due to the need for longer, deeper breaths, one of the inherent
results of nasal breathing is a slower breath rate. There is a
direct correlation between breath rate and heart rate so that a
slower breath rate will entrain a slower heart rate. The average
athlete who consistently uses mouth breathing will have a breath
rate of anywhere between 30-40 breaths per minute during exercise.
During nasal breathing this number is generally cut in half! This
has an incredible amount of significance when you realize that
simply though nasal breathing, you can lower your breath rate which
will in turn, lower your heart rate at any given intensity. The end
result being that during a race, you’d have more in your energy
reserves to out-run your competitors!

So now that you understand why I’m such a proponent of nasal
breathing and how it will ultimately benefit you, I invite you to
spend this coming month playing with this technique.

8 Comments so far
Leave a comment

[…] […]

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[…] i was still unsure if this was the right path to go down, i came across this excellent blog post The Importance of Nasal Breathing and this has given me extra conviction to pursue a nasal breathing policy (in and out) whilst doing […]

Pingback by Shut your mouth: Nasal Breathing is a snorting good choice « Learnadoodledastic: Emphasizing the Sync

Doesn’t seem to be a reliable source – she states that: “. The inner nose is made up of small ridges called turbinates which act as turbines to swirl air into a refined stream that is suitable for oxygen exchange.” and later that mouth breathing bypasses this function. There is none to very little gas exchange taking place in the nose! It seems plausible however that you’d make your diaphragm stronger, so that at a competition you can perform better – similar to shedding training weights.

Comment by Rasmus Sloth Pedersen

There are also nerves in the turbinates that regulate breathing during sleep. Nasal breathing during sleep improves sleep and relaxes the mind/body. Good work on this coach!
Rick Clerici, Clinical Sleep Educator

Comment by Rick Clerici

Your advise can be confirmed by reading about the Buteyco method. Nasal brathing only.

Comment by Jorge Salvans Sr.

[…] When we breathe air directly from the mouth into the lungs, a survival response is triggered in the nervous system. As a result,a fight-or-flight reaction is activated causing the release of adreneline and cortisol.Breathing through (in and out) the nose stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which calms the mind and rejuvenates the body. Here is a link to an article if you want to read more.https://ultimatefitness.wordpress.com/2006/10/13/the-importance-of-nasal-breathi […]

Pingback by Nose Breathing | Sheffield HypnoBirthing

[…] are some of the things I read about nasal […]

Pingback by Nasal Breathing | Run Inspired.

Awesome stuff…thanks. I’ve been doing nasal only deep breathing in the gym now for a couple of weeks and it rocks!

Comment by John Carson LesterJr (@JohnLester)

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