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Diaphragmatic Breathing – Help Yourself with This Simple Exercise

My kids are athletes – ten times over where I was in my prime – and are constantly looking for ways to boost their cardiovascular ability. So when they tell me about something that can easily improve my performance, I listen. 

Turns out this recent tip, a simple breathing exercise, has health benefits to anyone, not just competitive athletes. According to the Cleveland Clinic, diaphragmatic breathing, also called belly breathing, can:

  • Increase oxygen in the blood
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Lower heart rate
  • Increase lung efficiency
  • Improve muscle function during exercise

It’s easy to do and doesn’t take long. My favorite time to practice diaphragmatic breathing is right when I wake up, before I get out of bed. Belly breathing while prone is probably the easiest as your getting a hang of it, though sitting in a chair is also fine once you become accustomed to the exercise. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Lie on your back with your knees propped up. You can place a pillow underneath them for support if you like.

2. Place one hand on your chest, and the other on your belly.

3. Breath into your belly – the hand on your chest should stay still, while the one on your belly rises with your breath. Breathe in slowly and completely, then purse your lips and exhale through your mouth, allowing your stomach muscles to fall in and gently contract.

4. Repeat this breathing for at least five minutes, working up to ten as you become more comfortable. At first, you may just practice once a day, but as you progress, experts suggest practicing two to three times a day for the most benefits.

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