Have you ever caught yourself mid-Pilates with a tightened ribcage, and realised that you’d been holding your breath or breathing shallowly?
It’s something that we often do during exercise without noticing, and often it takes a subtle prompt to remind us to breathe again and experience the deep benefits that it adds to our Pilates. While we all know breathing is how we push the stale air from our lungs to be replaced with oxygen-packed air, why is it so central to Pilates? There’s been some amazing research from the University of New South Wales which may shed new light on how you focus on your breath.
After wondering where the ‘fat’ goes after weight loss, researchers decided to track the molecules and see how they left the body. The age-old answer had stood uncontested for a long time – you burn it as energy, right? Hundreds of personal trainers, dieticians, and other trained experts in physiology have always offered that response. Turns out, it’s not quite the case.
After determining the exact molecular construct of fat – a mixture of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon – they found that a total of 84% of each fat molecule is exhaled as carbon dioxide after it is broken down through oxygenation. Results showed that we would need to inhale 29kg of oxygen to produce 28 kg of CO2, and 11 kg of water – in total breaking down 10kg of fat.
Long story short; fat cells require oxygen to be effectively broken down and removed from your body. Frequently we hear cardio exercise being attributed to weight loss, and a high heart rate is the sign of more fat burn. However, this research tends to indicate that it is the breathing that comes with exercise that is actually doing the fat-burning.
Even if fat loss isn’t part of your goal and you prefer to focus on muscle training, deep breathing is irreplaceable. After all, your muscles can only repair themselves with the help of oxygen, or can only generate energy by transporting cells like adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which fuels your muscles.
What This Means For You:
While sitting at home and hyperventilating is a terrible idea which we do not condone, this is a major principle of Pilates that many exercise programs have left behind. Someone going for an hour run who breathes shallowly is providing their body with less oxygen, and releasing less carbon dioxide than a person who is completing 45 minutes of Pilates with long, deep inhalations and exhalations. We’re sure you can guess which of these people is burning more fat and promoting more muscle growth. Cardiovascular exercise has many incredible benefits for the heart and lungs, but without proper focus on breathe it can add stress to a poorly fuelled body.
Benefits Of Pilates and Breath:
Shallow breath doesn’t allow your lungs to expand completely to fill with oxygen, which is a required part of nearly every single chemical reaction in your body, or to expel carbon dioxide which is a waste product. Oxygen is what stimulates the internal organs, and is carried throughout the body to ensure that your muscles are firing and your mind is clear. In Pilates, the connection of the mind and body is integral to the practice and maintaining presence and proper form. By centering on your breath, you are adhering to one of the main principles of Pilates and creating a more mentally and physically rewarding experience. The lengthening and compressing of our diaphragm adds extra abdominal training to your practise which a shallow cycle of breath cannot compete with. Pilates deals with every muscle in your body and encourages consistent awareness from the mind – making your breath the perfect supplement.