Wellness Wednesday Tip #39: Just Breathe

     Welcome back! Happy Wellfie Wednesday! This week’s tip comes from a guest health promoter, Ali Hartman (@alihartmanSPT), a DPT student at Winston-Salem State University. Her tip involves something we do ~23,040 times per day, yet rarely notice we are doing it—BREATHING! We know that breathing is an essential activity to keep our body alive, allowing oxygen to enter and waste to be eliminated (seventy percent of waste is eliminated from your lungs just by breathing!)(2). But what we often don’t consider is that beyond the “basics,” breathing can have a VAST array of incredibly beneficial effects inside our body, and is a powerful tool we can learn to leverage in our daily lives to improve our health and wellbeing!

     Deep breathing has been cited as one of the easiest ways to improve your mental and physical health.(3) Deep breathing practices have been around for thousands of years, and go by many names, such as “diaphragmatic breathing,” “belly breathing,” and “paced breathing” to name a few. Numerous parts of the body are affected by deep breathing including the heart, brain, lungs, muscles, digestive system, immune system, and nervous system.(3,4) Research is showing that it may even affect our gene expression!(4) Check out the infographic below to see seven awesome effects of deep breathing!(5) 

     Many of the positive effects of deep breathing are mediated through strong connections to our nervous system, particularly the parasympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of the “rest and digest” processes in our body. Through this connection, deep breathing can help reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain while improving mood, energy, and focus. It can help lower our blood pressure, improve sleep quality, aid in proper digestion, and improve the immune response in the body. Additionally, it can help regulate cortisol, curbing the negative effects that occur when too much of this “stress hormone” is released. The list of benefits goes on and on! Some physicians have even found deep breathing to be a helpful treatment tactic for certain conditions such as asthma, heart failure, COPD, PTSD, depression, and anxiety.(1,3)

     If you want to hear more about the healing powers of breathing, check out this TEDx Talk with Max Strom, author of “A Life Worth Breathing”. He’ll unravel more of the benefits of breathing, and walk you through a simple “do anywhere” breathing exercise at the end! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Lb5L-VEm34

     Now that you know the benefits, you may be wondering “So…how do I do it?” Check out this video to walk you through the “how-to” of deep breathing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ua9bOsZTYg

     There are a TON of awesome (and free!) breathing apps that can help you get started as well. A few favorite freebies are:

  • ·       “Breathe Deep” (very simple and easy to use)
  • ·       “Essence”
  • ·       “Simple Habit” & Breathe2Relax (for more guided breathing)

     So take a few minutes to “just breathe” today! The excellent news is that the research shows it doesn’t take long—as little as 30 seconds of deep breathing can have positive effects! Sprinkling short bursts of deep breathing frequently throughout your day has been found to be especially beneficial, with a good goal to work towards of at least 10-20 minutes total each day. Start small and work your way up, your mind and body will thank you!

     Thanks again for all of the #WellfieWednesday support, be sure to post your pictures again this week and tag the WW crew members (@PBernerSPT@Eric_in_AmERICa@AaronPerezPT@fitnerdaimee@DianaKlatt) and keep the wave of healthy change going!

- WW Crew


1.      Brown, R. P., & Gerbarg, P. L. (2005). Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing in the Treatment of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Part I—Neurophysiologic Model. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,11(1), 189-201. doi:10.1089/acm.2005.11.189

2.      What You Never Knew About Breathing: Fun Facts. (2016, September 29). Retrieved March 13, 2017, from https://lunginstitute.com/blog/never-knew-breathing-facts/

3.      Reddy, S. (2015, January 26). Breathing for Your Better Health. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/breathing-for-your-better-health-1422311283

4.      Cuda, G. (2010, December 06). Just Breathe: Body Has A Built-In Stress Reliever. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/2010/12/06/131734718/just-breathe-body-has-a-built-in-stress-reliever

5.      Gregoire, C. (2013, August 09). How Changing Your Breathing Can Change Your Life (INFOGRAPHIC). Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/09/breathing-health_n_3696302.html