Nose Breathing & Running

Serious runners are always looking for that little extra advantage to help them reach a new peak, whether its gaining speed or endurance. The best way to breathe while running is a commonly debated topic among runners. Though some runners champion breathing only through their nose while running, Runners Connect and Outside Online agree that breathing through your mouth is natural and healthy.

Breathing through your nose may be best in some situations. Credit: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Nose Doubt About It

When air temperature and humidity levels are extremely low, it can be beneficial to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth, Dr. James Shaffrath -- a lecturer of exercise biology, neurobiology, physiology and behavior at the University of California, Davis -- told Outside Online. Your nose warms the air before it enters your lungs, generally making breathing easier. Those training outside during winter months may find this helpful. Asthmatic runners may also benefit from breathing through their noses, as breathing through the mouth may make the condition worse.

Mouthing Off

Breathing through the mouth brings in more oxygen than breathing through the nose, according to Runners Connect, which notes that some runners are comfortable breathing through both the nose and the mouth at the same time. Forcing yourself to inhale and exhale only through the nostrils, however, can tighten the muscles of the jaw and face. Keeping your mouth open will help you relax your face and may help the rest of your body relax too.

Comfort Not Constriction

While at rest, most people breathe through their noses. During light exercise, you'll breathe through your nose and then switch to your mouth once you reach two to three times your resting breath rate, according to Shaffrath. He notes that once you exceed four to six times your resting breath rate, you can't comfortably push air through your nose. Whether you breathe through your mouth or your nose, you will naturally deepen each breath in order to increase your oxygen intake.

The Core of the Matter

Other factors must be considered when learning how to breathe properly during a run. When running, the muscles of the upper back, shoulders and neck often tighten, causing shallow breathing originating from the chest rather than deep breathing from the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the abdomen from the chest. Pacific Elite Fitness recommends breathing deeply into the belly and focusing on keeping the arms loose and the upper body relaxed.

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