More air! How to breathe properly in any sport

You breathe in, you breathe out. You probably don’t worry about it much because it happens automatically. But what you do unconsciously is very important. Incorrect breathing during sports can affect your performance. This is because the vital capacity, the maximum lung volume that can be inhaled and exhaled, is an important performance indicator, especially for endurance sports. So you don’t get into breathlessness right away – here comes good news:

That is why it is worthwhile to breathe properly during sports

The vital capacity can be increased by up to 20 percent! The better your body is supplied with blood and oxygen, the more your organs, brain and muscles benefit from it. “At rest, the breathing rate is about 14 to 16 strokes per minute. That’s a good 15,000 litres of air breathed in and out every day,” explains Prof. Harald Morr, Chairman of the German Lung Foundation (

Under physical exertion, energy consumption increases and with it the oxygen requirement, so that the breathing frequency increases up to fourfold. A trained respiratory musculature – for example through endurance sports – can cope with the strain better than an untrained one.

In this article:

  • What happens in the body when we breathe?
  • Are there tools that track breathing?
  • Abdominal breathing or chest breathing?
  • Breathing correctly during weight training
  • The right breathing when running
  • Breathing technique for swimming
  • Breathing during Yoga
  • Breathing properly on the bike

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What exactly happens when you breathe?

The respiratory reflex is not so much caused by a lack of oxygen, but by the fact that the body has to release used air containing carbon dioxide. Afterwards, fresh and oxygen-rich air flows into the alveoli as you breathe in. The body’s oxygen requirement could be met by mouth breathing alone. The nose, however, serves as a filter organ for the defence against infections, as it warms and cleans the air we breathe.

The air flows from the upper airways through the lower airways via the larynx, trachea and bronchia to the lungs. The bronchi branch out and end in the smallest air sacs, the alveoli. These enable the gas exchange of oxygen, which enters the blood, and carbon dioxide, which is removed from the blood. The oxygen is transported via the red blood cells to where it is needed, so that each individual cell is supplied with energy.

Tiefes Durchatmen tut nicht nur gut, es versorgt den Körper mit frischer Energie Taking a deep breath is not only good for you, it also provides the body with fresh energy © Jacob Lund /

Are there tools that track breathing?

Our breathing accompanies us through the day as a matter of course. Rhythm and depth are not always the same, they change according to the load. “Breathing is the best physiological indicator of mental states,” says Dr. Neema Moraveji, who developed the Spire fitness tracker based on research from Standford University’s Calming Technology Lab. Spire records your breathing pattern and measures when you are focused, tense or relaxed.

In this way, he helps you to be more aware of your breathing and suggests breathing exercises or meditation in the corresponding app if necessary. In addition, the tracker looks quite stylish and can be attached to your waistband or the BH to be worn.

Is abdominal breathing always better than chest breathing?

No matter how you do it, you get enough air to live. But if you would let the body decide alone, relaxed breathing would automatically go into the abdomen. This is more effective because the diaphragm, the most important respiratory muscle, is also moved. It causes up to 80 percent of the respiratory volume. Nevertheless, many people breathe into the thorax, because the abdomen bulges out unattractively.

However, it is worthwhile to train abdominal breathing because the air space can be enlarged and the breathing volume increased. For this you lie flat on your back and a few books on your stomach. Breathe in deeply, so that the books rise high and fall down when you exhale. Do this exercise for 3 to 5 minutes daily, and try to use the breathing later while walking or running. Already after one month you can increase your vital capacity.

The right breathing will help you progress in any sport and will allow you to breathe more quickly and calmly again afterwards. But which breathing is the right one for which sport?

Mit kurzen, flachen Atemzügen beim Krafttraining raubst Du dir unnötig Energie. With short, shallow breaths during weight training you rob yourself of unnecessary energy. © Jacob Lund /

Breathing correctly during weight training

The higher the weight you lift with your dumbbells, the more effort it means for your muscles. Many tend to hold their breath at the moment of exertion – a dangerous reflex! “Then there is enormous pressure on the vessels, heart and lungs,” Professor Morr knows. Even with pressurized breathing, i.e. short, shallow breaths, you unnecessarily rob yourself of energy in your workout. The rhythm of breathing and movement can be synchronized, especially when training with weights.

“Breathe out during exertion and breathe in during relief,” advises the pulmonologist.

The 4 best dumbbell exercises for at home Bevor du tief aus dem Bauch Luft holst, solltest du vollständig ausgeatmet haben. Before you take a deep breath from your stomach, you should have exhaled completely. © Jacob Lund /

The right breathing technique when running

You mean: When running, your breathing rhythm should match the beat of your footwork or even the beats of the music from your MP3 player? Wrong! Don’t waste energy concentrating on special breathing techniques – the body gets what it needs on its own. But you can support it in doing so: Always take a deep breath, preferably from the stomach. But this only works if you have consciously breathed out really deeply beforehand. In this way you also prevent side stings.

Because if you don’t suffer from a lack of oxygen, a cramping of the diaphragm is less likely. It doesn’t matter if you breathe through your nose or mouth. It only matters in sub-zero temperatures. “Cold air makes the bronchi constrict, they are less efficient,” says Morr. Then it is advisable to breathe through the nose, because the air is so warm.

 8 reasons to finally jog Ein guter Tipp für eine erfolgreiche Schwimmsession ist der Dreierythmus. A good tip for a successful swimming session is the triple rhythm. © Jacob Lund /

Breathe properly when swimming

Breast and back swimmers fight at most against water splashes, but breathe over water without problems. When crawling, things get more complicated: most of the time the head is under water, which prevents automatic breathing. It takes getting used to the fact that you can’t gasp for air spontaneously and at any time – and this makes a regular breathing rhythm indispensable.

Try a triple rhythm: 3 arm movements are followed by one breath; this way your oxygen supply is guaranteed even during exertion. To do this, turn your head only slightly to the side so that your temple rests on the surface of the water. This does not disturb the overall movement.

Better swimming and therefore losing weight Im Yoga ist es viel wichtiger, dass Sie bei Ihrer Atmung bleiben als sich besonders stark zu verrenken In yoga, it is much more important to stay with your breathing than to dislocate your body © Jacob Lund /

The right breathing in Yoga

Active yoga means active breathing: a steady and controlled flow of breathing sharpens the concentration on the body and its limits. Movements arise from these deep breaths, the rhythm is part of the exercise depending on the yoga direction. The basic rule is: If you come from calm and flowing breaths into short and hectic ones, this is a clear indication of too much effort. Then definitely shift down a gear.

Refocus your breathing and focus on strength and stretching, because muscles only work efficiently with long, deep strokes. “Tracking and breathing as a relaxation element are important,” says Morr. The end of an exercise should result in a harmonious body feeling.

Which type of Yoga suits me best?

Eine gleichmäßige Atmung verhindert Seitenstechen. Je aufrechter der Sitz, desto freier die Atmung. Even breathing prevents side stings. The more upright the seat, the more free breathing. © Loris de Lillo /

The right breathing technique when cycling

What is an advantage for the aerodynamics on your bike can easily become a disadvantage for the oxygen intake: If you lean your upper body too flat forward, breathing can be impaired. While you are still actively inhaling, exhalation is largely passive – which, in combination with your position, often results in shallow chest breathing.

“Due to the extreme curvature of the body, the chest is compressed and the abdomen is constricted.” The expert therefore recommends beginners a more upright position. Additional tip: During great exertion, it is best to take air through the mouth. Because the mouth opening is larger, the resistance is reduced, the muscles are less strained and you ultimately save energy.

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The correct breathing in sports is not a science. But it helps to become aware of the process once, so that the correct breathing technique becomes second nature. Because the more you perform, the more oxygen your body needs. By improving your breathing technique during sports, your body will be supplied with sufficient oxygen, you will last longer, you can really give your all and rise above yourself.

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