You do cardio for your heart. You lift weights for your arms. You do squats for your legs. What do you do for your diaphragm? Do you need to do anything for it?
All of our movement comes from our diaphragm. We use our diaphragm to eat, speak, and of course breathe. So you would think it would be strong right? Well…there are many muscles that help in breathing, and if we over-utilize those muscles (neck muscles, lower back, calves), then our diaphragm really isn’t working full time for us.
Want to check your breathing health status? Try this test! Take a normal inhale through your nose. Exhale through your mouth, releasing as much air as you can. Pause and start the timer. Stop the timer as soon as you feel the urge to want to inhale (NOT until you are gasping for air, but the initial urge). A controlled pause of 20 seconds or less is poor, 25-35 seconds and fair and 40 seconds or more is good.
You tried it huh? That was hard wasn’t it? Hyperventilation/overbreathing has been proven to decrease the oxygen delivery to your cells. This is a major sign of general health. One major pulmonology researcher, Dr. Buteyko determined that a respiratory rate (number of breaths you take in 1 minute) averaging 12 is considered normal. Any higher than that is a sign of overbreathing and puts you at risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, asthma, anxiety, sleep apnea, and diabetes. He developed the Buteyko breathing method (i.e. the test you just did) to help improve chronic disease risk.
So what if your test showed you need some work, what do you do?! Well, turn that test into practice! Start spending some time breathing properly and “calming your system.” This breathing strategy has been proven to decrease anxiety, asthma, and COPD exacerbation. From a physical therapy standpoint, this breathing strategy helps to activate the diaphragm, re-position the ribcage, and activate the pelvic floor. This is essential for reducing loads on the shoulders, hips and knees, and for overall muscle activation.
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