March Madness is upon us, and our televisions at home (and maybe even our computer monitors at work) are filled with college basketball players performing high-flying dunks, fast breaks, and storming the court in celebration of victory. Although your days of glory on the basketball court may be behind you, you can still incorporate healthy breathing techniques before and after your workout to improve your health.
Before you begin your fitness routine, make sure you’ve taken enough time to properly warm up. Warming up raises your body temperature and increases your blood circulation to your muscles. As your heart rate gradually increases and your muscles warm up, your ligaments and tendons become more flexible, thus decreasing the chance of tears and other injuries. A solid warm up also helps you prepare mentally for the workout ahead, giving you a chance to reduce any potential mental stress of a tough workout. Dynamic warm-up movements are preferable to static warm-up movements because dynamic stretching strengths muscles while static stretching weakens muscles.
An ideal warm-up begins with aerobic activity, like light jogging or shuffling in place, before moving on to dynamic stretches such as squats, lunges, straight-leg marching, and more. Athletes whose sports involve moving quickly in a variety of directions (like basketball, tennis, or soccer players) should make sure to do stretches that involve their entire bodies. Your heart rate and breathing should gradually increase over the course of the warm-up, prepping you to perform at a high level when you begin your workout.
Healthy breathing post-workout lowers your heart rate safely and allows your muscles and body temperature to cool down from their elevated states. Your cool down routine should be a less strenuous version of your normal exercise to allow your heart rate to return to normal. Breathe through your nose, inhaling and exhaling deeply to humidify the air and prevent your lungs from constricting. It’s important to remain upright for the first part of your cool down so that your lungs can expand fully and regain their normal breath; immediately bending over or laying down could induce post-exercise asthma.
Incorporate static stretches such as touching your toes (while standing or sitting), standing on one leg and holding the opposite foot behind you to stretch your quadriceps, and standing with your feet apart and alternating bending forward to touch one foot and then the other.
Regardless of what type of exercise you’re doing, make sure to warm up and cool down in a place with high quality air so that you get the most out of your workout. An indoor air purifier and humidifier ensures that clean oxygen can easily pass through your lungs and optimize your circulation for a safe yet heart-racing workout- and the buzzer-beater you’ll cheer for afterwards.