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How to Control Breathing

by Kay Ireland

About Kay Ireland

Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.


Anxiety, vigorous exercise and intense concentration all effect your breathing. Breathing too quickly and gasping for air increases anxiety because it feels as though you cannot get enough oxygen, while taking shallow breaths reduces the amount of oxygen feeding your brain. Controlled breathing gives your body the optimum amount of oxygen it needs for the activity involved. This can help reduce anxiety symptoms, increase the efficiency of your workouts and enhance concentration.

Step 1

Practice abdominal breathing, which is often ignored in favor of shallower chest breathing. Lie down or lean back in your chair and place your hand over your belly. Breathe in deeply and watch your hand. If it doesn't move, you're only bringing air into your chest. Concentrate on filling your entire belly with air before exhaling.

Step 2

Create a pattern for your breathing to keep it under control. This is known as breathing cadence. Breathing cadence allows you to align the timing and tempo of your breathing with your method of exercise, ensuring that your breathing matches your body's oxygen needs. For instance, during most exercises you inhale before exertion and exhale during the exertion.

Step 3

Breathe slowly when you feel anxious. Stop what you're doing and sit in a quiet area. Breathe deeply into your abdomen for a slow count of three and out for a count of three. Repeat, counting slowly, until you gain control of your breath. This works especially well when preparing for a nerve-wracking speech or to cool down when you're angry.

Step 4

Exercise more often. When you're out of shape, your body, lungs and heart have to work harder to pump oxygen into your muscles. This is why you find yourself out of breath during simple daily activities such as walking up a flight of stairs. Incorporating cardiovascular activity into your daily routine helps strengthen your heart and lungs so you're not left wheezing when you need to complete physical tasks.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.