By Sean Zucker –
Professional athletes are constantly searching for new ways to get an edge on the competition. Whether it’s a unique diet or superior workout routines, the goal is to increase performance. A recent tactic gaining popularity is to strictly breathe through your nose while exercising. Professional athletes and trainers tout this small trick passes the smell test due to its numerous benefits.
A lot of these gains are tied to how focused nose breathing can enhance relaxation levels. New York City-based personal trainer Henry Halse explains that before exercising, a body is relaxed and demands less oxygen, making it easier to breathe comfortably through your nose. This changes as movements being, heart rates rise and the demand for oxygen increases to get rid of carbon dioxide. The combined impact forces more mouth breathing. However, by learning to continue breathing through the nose during increased activity, the periods of relaxation can be extended and the workout pace increased, he adds.
A deeper dive into human biology shows this technique carries some weight. The Washington Post highlights that the human nose is built with the distinct purpose to support the respiratory system, while mouth is designed to initiate the digestive process. The nose also works to add moisture and warmth to inhaled air for smoother entry to the lungs, allowing for more oxygen to get to active tissues during exercise.
The legendary newspaper spoke with Brian Mackenzie, a former pro athlete and founder of the Power Speed Endurance, on the importance of nose breathing. A specialist in optimizing athletic performance, Mackenzie explained how nasal breathing can profoundly improve awareness, while also underscoring its positive mental and physical impact. “To desire a mind that remains curious and can see the beauty in any experience is true freedom. Our breath is the direct link to a calm, clear mind and body,” said Mackenzie.
Former professional surfer, Laird Hamilton, backed up these claims while on the Joe Rogan Podcast last May. He stressed not only the exercise benefits of nose breathing, but positive impacts it can have on mental health. Hamilton explained that the combination of cardio and nose breathing almost gives individuals another gear. “When you switch to mouth breathing, it’s like having a blower on your car…you open up the air and it’s a whole new game… Anytime you’re stressed, if you can control your breathe, that controls your heart rate,” he added.
The benefits don’t end here. Turns out, nose breathing may even help take your brain game to the next level. A recent Swedish study out of the Karolinska Institutet, originally published in The Journal of Neuroscience, focused on how varied breathing techniques may affect how memories are consolidated, reinforced and stabilized. The research involved testing participants’ recollection of smells through various forms of breathing. It found that those breathing through their nose rather than the mouth were better able to remember smells.
If something smells funky here, it’s because more research is certainly needed to conclusively support all these reputed nose breathing benefits. But that doesn’t mean the approach still isn’t worth a whiff of interest in the meantime.