The myth of deep breathing

by | Nov 2, 2010 | Exercise, Fitness & Rehab | 1 comment

I trained in tae kwon do for a couple of years.  It was a lot of fun and I’ve never been in quite as good shape.  But there was one thing about the class that repeatedly irked me.  It was an extremely minor thing, actually.  I should have ignored it.  But it irked me anyway.

We’d be doing some profoundly punishing cardio-taxing exercise.  And as we all were left panting and gasping for air, our instructor, to help us recover oxygen balance quicker, would say – “Now breathe deeply!”

Now why would that innocuous remark drive me nuts?

Are There Deep Breathing Benefits?

People assume that deep breathing is more efficient, or will take in oxygen more quickly, or that it’s somehow just…better.

Except that it isn’t.

The body is really brilliant at optimizing itself.  When you’re out of breath, your body (in most cases) will automatically adopt the optimal rate and rhythm of breathing to rush oxygen back to your brain (and other body tissues).

Those quick panting breaths that you use when you’ve just finished a spinning class?  They actually take in oxygen and shed carbon dioxide more efficiently than deeper breaths.

Deep breathing does fill the lungs more per breath, but each breath takes longer, and wastes energy expanding your rib cage to the max.

Summary.  During and after exertion, don’t try to artificially impose a “proper” breathing rate on your body.  Allow your body to automatically set its rate and rhythm.  It’s smarter than you are.


A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The
flight attendant looks at him and says, ‘I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion
allowed per passenger.’



Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

The art of breathing

1 Comment

  1. Brian

    I agree.


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