Breathing may be something that you don’t think about a lot. Of course not. It’s an involuntary process that happens automatically whether you’re paying attention to it or not. But what if you DID pay attention to your breathing? Do you think it can improve your sports performance? As a matter of fact, it certainly can.

Although you’re breathing without much thought, the quality of your breath can change under certain conditions. For example, when you’re relaxed, you’re more likely to take slower and deeper breaths. This can provide a sense of calm and ease throughout your entire body. It can also keep the brain functioning smoothly. (More about that later.) When you’re stressed, however, your breathing changes. Under duress, you might take faster, more shallow breaths. In some cases, you may even stop breathing temporarily. This, too, can have an effect on the brain and perhaps not in the best of ways. Let’s take a look.

Studies have shown that fast, erratic breathing can affect your emotions. It can lead to a stressed brain and body. You’re more likely to feel angry, upset, frustrated, and unfocused. Uncontrolled breathing can contribute to higher blood pressure and heart rate which can lead to other concerns like heart disease and stroke. These don’t seem like very good outcomes when related to something we do involuntarily. But what if you were able to gain more control over your breath?

Slow, deep breaths, studies also show, are related to a healthy heart, mind, and body. Steady, rhythmic breaths can ease the heart rate and reduce blood pressure. More controlled breathing can even improve your memory, thinking, and concentration. Being able to take deeper breaths can help relax the muscles in your body.

How Breathing Can Help With Performance

Under stress, you may not perform very well. You can have difficulty focusing and it’s a challenge to concentrate. Steady breathing, even while in a stressful situation, like a high intensity game, can help you perform better. You’ll make more rational decisions on the fly. Your muscles will be less tense allowing your body to function efficiently while you’re engaging in an active sport.

This sounds ideal, but it doesn’t happen overnight; it does take practice. That’s right, you have to practice something that you do all the time. The key is that you have to pay attention to the act of breathing. You have to consider it a part of your routine just as you prepare and practice the skills related to your sport. Overtime, you will see a noticeable improvement in your overall skills.