Breathing is an essential function of life, but it's so much more than that. How well you breathe can affect your strength and stamina, your sleep, and even your mood.
According to the National Institutes of Health, controlled breathing can be especially beneficial for older adults.
Older adults who don't take the time to breathe deeply can experience ribcage stiffness and muscle weakness, which leads to shallow breaths and a poor oxygen supply. Shallow breathing can make you feel sluggish and uncomfortable, and may even prevent you from maintaining an active lifestyle.
But, just like many functions of your body, lung strength can be greatly improved with regular exercise. Here, we look at six breathing exercises for older adults.
Sit up straight and exhale. Inhale and relax your stomach muscles. Feel your belly expand as your lungs fill with air. Keep breathing in until you feel your chest expand with a deep breath. Hold the breath for a moment and exhale slowly, pulling your belly in to feel the last bit of air leaving your lungs. Close your eyes, relax, and concentrate on breathing like this for five minutes.
Follow the instructions for Complete Breathing, but when you get to the exhale, hum as you release the air from your body. Pull your belly muscles in as you hum the last of the air out of your body. Relax and practice this exercise for two to three minutes.
This exercise comes from the Chinese practice of Tai Chi Chuan. Take three short breaths in, raising your arms shoulder height in front of you on the first breath, pulling your arms out to shoulder height at your sides on your second breath, and raising them above your head on the last breath. Then slowly exhale and lower your arms back down to your sides. Try 10-12 repetitions. If you get light headed, stop the exercise.
The easiest way to practice this breath exercise is to lie on your back. Place one hand over your navel and your other hand above it on your stomach. Now concentrate on breathing from your diaphragm. If you can see the hand over your navel rising before the hand above it, you are doing this exercise correctly. Relax and concentrate on your breathing for five minutes.
This is as much a relaxation technique as it is a breathing exercise. Concentrate on breathing as your chest and diaphragm rise and fall in tandem. Breathe at a normal speed and allow yourself to clear your mind. As you exhale, imagine your stress and tension traveling down your body and leaving through your feet. Repeat until you feel relaxed.
This breathing exercise is especially helpful for people who have breathing problems like asthma. Start by finding a comfortable resting position in a quiet place and, instead of taking a deep breath, concentrate on taking shallow breaths in slowly through your nose. This method can slow the cycle of rapid, gasping breaths people experience with an asthma attack or in a stressful situation.