Whether we are lifting something heavy around the house or performing exercises at the gym, at some point in time we have been guilty of holding our breath during movement. In order to understand why holding your breath is detrimental to creating stability and coordination throughout your body, it’s necessary to learn what takes place throughout each breath. During inhalation the diaphragm lowers and causes the transverse abdominis (one of our deepest core muscles) and pelvic floor to lower and expand, allowing air to fill our lungs. With exhalation, the diaphragm rises while the transverse abdominis and pelvic floor recoil, creating stability within our system. This process allows for healthy, functional movement.
Our central stability system, also known as the inner core, includes four muscles: the diaphragm, transverse abdominis, multifidus, and pelvic floor muscles. When these muscles are not functioning in a coordinated manner, such as holding our breath during exertion, overtime it can contribute to low back pain and pelvic instability. Research has shown that these muscles including the pelvic floor, are anticipatory muscles, meaning they are the first to activate before completing any other movement.1 Therefore, if our foundation is unstable how is the rest of our movement going to feel or look? This will most likely lead to compensation in other parts of our body, leaving us more susceptible to injury. When we hold our breath during functional activities we are increasing the pressure within our abdomen and shutting off the natural coordination of these four muscles.
Start by becoming conscious of your breathing when resting and then through physical activity. Focus on taking a deep breathe in and exhale through your movement allowing your rib cage to expand and your inner core to engage. This will keep your body stable during exertion. Avoid unnecessary injury; let your breath fuel your life.
- Hodges PW, et al. Postural and Respiratory Functions of the Pelvic Floor Muscles. Neurology and Urodynamics. 2007;26(3):362-371.