How to Breathe Properly: Tips for Running, Exercise, Sleep & More

Practice
February 22, 2022

Breathing is something people often take for granted. You likely know you need to breathe in order to stay alive, but you may not know how to breathe properly. There are plenty of ways to improve your breathing, but knowing the correct way to breathe is a good starting point.

Those who want to know how to breathe properly can learn how to do so by exploring the following sections:

  • Why is proper breathing important?
  • How to breathe properly while running, exercising, meditating, and more
  • 5 breathwork techniques to train yourself to breathe properly
  • Try it now: 5-minute video on how to breathe properly
  • Top 5 FAQs about breathing correctly

If you’re ready to learn more about what is the correct way to breathe, we’ll start by covering the importance of breathing properly.

Also, if you want to learn more about the science behind proper breathing, check out our guide to deep breathing and the parasympathetic nervous system.

Why is proper breathing important?

A woman breathing outdoors

The reason why proper breathing is important is because it allows more oxygen to enter the body, helping its systems to function at full capacity. Breathing properly helps the body stay calm and prevents it from mistakenly entering fight-or-flight mode. Shallow breathing, in contrast, can put unnecessary stress on the body.

By making an effort to learn to breathe properly, you actually benefit your physical and mental health in many different ways. Here are some of the top benefits of breathing correctly:

  1. Relieves stress and anxiety
  2. Slows heart rate
  3. Lowers blood pressure
  4. Improves sleep
  5. Increases focus
  6. Helps manage symptoms of depression
  7. Improves core muscle stability
  8. Increases physical endurance
  9. Improves oxygenation and CO2 tolerance
  10. Relieves physical pain

So what is the correct way to breathe in and out? We’ll provide you with the best tips and techniques in the next couple of sections.

How to breathe properly while running, exercising, meditating, and more

Knowing the proper way to breathe in general is important, but knowing how to breathe correctly during different forms of physical activity is critical for efficiency and overall health. This section will cover how to deep breathe properly when being active.

Proper breathing technique while running

Two people running in water

Knowing how to breathe properly while running is important in order to take in more oxygen and put less stress on the body. Those who’ve mastered proper breathing while running are able to run faster and overcome the most strenuous parts of their run. By following the tips below, you can improve your run times and run more comfortably.

Tips for breathing better

  • Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
  • Utilize your diaphragm.
  • Maintain good posture.
  • Breathe in a rhythmic pattern.
  • If possible, run in areas and during times when the air is cleanest.
  • Stick to running under comfortable temperatures.
  • Have a warm-up and cool-down routine.
  • Avoid running in areas with pollen.
  • Regularly practice breathing exercises.

Proper breathing technique while exercising & lifting weights

Proper breathing during exercise, including using proper breathing techniques while lifting weights, can help improve your workout. While common wisdom says to simply focus on the task at hand, paying attention to your breathing can help you work out more efficiently. It allows you to have more control over your muscles, and keeps you calm and focused.

Tips for breathing better

  • Practice breathing exercises before your workout.
  • Breathe through your nose, making use of your diaphragm.
  • Exhale as you lift your weights and inhale as you lower them. Use a similar technique for other exercises.
  • Breathe rhythmically while exercising.
  • Avoid holding your breath.
  • Use your rib cage to help you breathe during exercises that involve “crunching” your stomach muscles.
  • If you begin to lose your breath, slow down until you regain it.
  • Practice equal breathing during your cooldown and while stretching.

Breathing properly during sleep

A woman practicing breathwork on a bed

Knowing how to breathe properly while sleeping can make a big difference in the quality of your sleep. Allowing for slow, deep breaths as you’re falling asleep allows you to enter a deep sleep and stay asleep. There are also several breathing exercises for sleep that are great if you struggle to fall asleep in the first place.

Tips for breathing better

  • Breathe in and out of your nose, making use of your diaphragm.
  • Practice 4-7-8 breathing before bed.
  • Use a nasal breathing aid, if needed.
  • Use a face steamer to open blocked sinuses.
  • Lie on your side or on your back.

Breathing correctly during meditation

Some might not think too much about how to breathe properly when meditating, since it can seem like a straightforward practice. However, anxiety over breathing correctly (or not) is often what prevents people from maintaining a meditative state. Knowing how to breathe correctly when meditating is important for being able to fully relax and be present in the moment.

Tips for breathing better

  • Take a few deep breaths before beginning your meditation, or lead into the meditation using breathwork techniques.
  • Keep your breaths as natural to you as possible, except when instructed to do otherwise. Nothing should feel forced.
  • Breathe through your nose and make use of your diaphragm.
  • Fill your lungs with slow, deep breaths.
  • Close your eyes temporarily if you’re having trouble focusing on your breath.

Proper breathing technique while swimming

A woman floating in water

Practicing proper breathing in swimming is important for both safety and efficiency. The common belief is that you should hold your breath underwater, but learning to control your breathing as your head cycles above and below water can improve your lung capacity and your swimming technique. It will also allow you to remain calm and focused as you swim.

Tips for breathing better

  • Get comfortable in the water before you start swimming. Practice exhaling underwater and inhaling above the surface until it feels smooth.
  • Create a cycle of inhaling while your face is out of water and exhaling when your face is underwater.
  • Try to avoid picking up your head to breathe. Instead, allow your head to rotate naturally with your technique.
  • Stick to either single-side breathing or bilateral breathing, depending on whichever one works best for you.
  • Use swimming techniques, such as the backstroke, to breathe to a rhythm.
  • If you’re having trouble focusing, use a kickboard or flippers to allow yourself to put more focus on your breathing.

5 breathwork techniques to train yourself to breathe properly 

So why is it important to practice proper breathing? Training yourself to breathe properly is the easiest way to adjust to the correct breathing technique. These are some proper breathing techniques that can help you improve your breathing.

1. Diaphragmatic breathing

A man practicing diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing, also called belly breathing or abdominal breathing, is one of the simplest deep breathing exercises you can do. The main purpose of this technique is to teach you to make use of your abdominal muscles while breathing. It also serves as a method of proper breathing for relieving anxiety and stress. You can practice it at any time of day, wherever you are.

How to do it:

  1. Get into a comfortable position, either sitting up straight or lying down.
  2. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach.
  3. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Notice the way your stomach rises as your body fills with air.
  4. Slowly exhale through your nose, noticing how your stomach relaxes. Try to keep your chest still.
  5. Continue to breathe like this for as long as desired.

2. Pursed lip breathing

Pursed lip breathing is a breathing exercise typically done by those looking to improve their breathing and/or lung capacity. This technique is highly recommended by medical professionals, especially for patients with asthma and COPD. It’s also great for anyone simply looking to relax.

How to do it:

  1. Sit up in a comfortable position.
  2. Inhale through your nose.
  3. Purse your lips as if you are about to blow air.
  4. Exhale through your lips.
  5. Repeat these steps as many times as desired.

3. Box breathing breathing

A woman practicing breathwork next to a sandy beach

Box breathing, also known as equal breathing or sama vritti in Pranayama breathwork, is an easy breathwork exercise that focuses on breathing at equal intervals. It is very similar to diaphragmatic breathing, with the main difference being the attention given to the length of your inhales and exhales. This is another technique that is good to use at any time.

How to do it:

  1. Get into a comfortable position, either sitting up straight or lying down.
  2. Inhale through your nose for a count of 4 seconds.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of 4 seconds.
  4. Exhale through your nose for a count of 4 seconds.
  5. Hold your breath for another count of 4 seconds.
  6. Repeat these steps as many times as desired.

4. 4-7-8 breathing

A man practicing breathwork

4-7-8 breathing is a simple breathwork exercise with a focus on your breathing intervals. For this technique, the instructions for how long to inhale, hold, and exhale are right in the name. Many people turn to this technique for sleep, but it is also great for improving your breathing.

How to do it:

  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  2. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4 seconds.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of 7 seconds.
  4. Breathe out through your nose for a count of 8 seconds.
  5. Repeat these steps as many times as desired.

5. Resonant breathing

Resonant breathing, also called coherent breathing, is an exercise designed to help improve your breathing rate. It’s very similar to equal breathing; however, the intervals are meant to help you breathe at 6 breaths per minute. In addition to improving your breathing, it’s also great at helping to improve your heart rate variability (HRV).

How to do it:

  1. Get into a comfortable position, either sitting up straight or lying down.
  2. Inhale through your nose for a count of 5 seconds.
  3. Exhale through your nose for a count of 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat these steps as many times as desired.

Try it now: 5-minute video on how to breathe properly

Learning how to train yourself to breathe properly is a lot easier with the right guidance. If you’d like to follow along with some breathing techniques, watch our video on how to breathe properly below:


Top 5 FAQs about breathing correctly

If you have additional questions about the importance of proper breathing, we have the answers. Learn more about the importance of breathing correctly with the FAQs below.

1. How do you know if you are breathing correctly?

When it comes to how to know if you are breathing correctly, you should pay attention to how your breathing feels. If it feels easy, smooth, steady, and controlled, you're breathing properly. You should also feel relaxed, and your breathing should be quiet or silent. Practice deep breathing whenever your breathing isn’t following these qualities.

A woman practicing breathwork in a living room setting

2. How can you correct mouth breathing?

Knowing how to correct mouth breathing can make a big difference to your overall health. The best way to do this is to regularly practice breathing through your nose with various breathing exercises. Reducing stressors and finding aids for improving your ability to breathe through the nose is also important.

3. How can you correct shortness of breath?

If you're struggling with shortness of breath, try practicing some deep breathing exercises (like pursed lip breathing) to help you relax and return to a proper state of breathing. Being mindful of your location's temperature, level of air pollution, and altitude is also important for proper breathing.

A man and a woman practicing breathwork outside

4. Can proper breathing techniques help you relax?

Yes, there are many proper breathing techniques for relaxation. When it comes to how to breathe properly to relax, you want to practice any breathing exercise that makes use of slow, deep breathing. This will activate the parasympathetic nervous system and calm your body, relieving stress and anxiety.

5. How should you breathe when you have asthma?

Knowing how to breathe correctly when you have asthma can help relieve your symptoms. Proper breathing in this case is as easy as taking slow, deep breaths. You can practice any breathing exercise for improved breathing, such as diaphragmatic or pursed-lip breathing, to help strengthen your respiratory system.



If you’re ready to start learning how to belly breathe properly, explore our available class styles – including proper breathing techniques for anxiety – on the Othership app.