During exercise, especially intense exercise, the respiratory rate increases because the body senses the need for more oxygen. Not only does the rate increase, but the depth increases as well. More air is expelled and then more air can be inhaled. This increase in breathing is good for the body at the moment of need and good as well in the long run, as it increases lung function and capacity.
Often hospital patients are given an incentive spirometer device and told to put it to their mouth and breathe out as hard and long as they can before breathing in again. This is a forced exhalation. The goal is to keep the lungs functioning and prevent the development of pneumonia. Labs or yearly physicals at doctor’s offices are other settings that use the incentive spirometer. In this instance, the objective is to test lung function. The patient is instructed to take a very deep breath and then exhale as fast, hard, and completely as possible.
Breathing is one of the few functions in the body that can be either on autopilot or voluntary control. Some doctors are teaching individuals with lung problems to practice forceful breathing while at rest. They learn to breathe out as fully as possible and then in deeply. This is done for several minutes several times per day and has been shown to improve health.
In addition to lung problems, breathing exercises have benefited other conditions, as well as overall health. They can reduce the incidence of stroke and heart disease, help maintain healthy blood pressure, and relieve anxiety and stress.
Breathing is accomplished by the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles in the chest. Heavy deep breathing is a beneficial workout for the muscles. Think of it as weight work for the lungs. When running or doing any other exercise, it would be a good idea to remember to add to the deep breathing already happening. This is done by forcing even more air out than your body requires. Think about what it is like to take a deep breath to blow out the candles on your birthday cake. Even better, recall how hard you had to blow into a new balloon to inflate it. Using those memories of forced exhalation, you can give your lungs and breathing muscles an extra good workout, while at the same time giving your body a workout.