Does how we Breathe impact how we Move?

According to all the studies I’ve ever reviewed it absolutely does! Breathing is our most basic of movement patterns so if we don’t have that right you can only assume a more complex pattern will pose not only challenge but potential detriment.

A study conducted in 2014 (Bradley and Esformes) was looked to determine the relationship between Breathing Pattern Disorders(BPD) and an individual’s Functional Movement capacity. It was assumed and well established that normal breathing mechanics play a key role in posture and spinal stabilization. It is also known that BPDs contribute to pain and motor control deficiencies resulting in poor movement patterns.

So what did they do? Breathing was assessed in 34 healthy individuals using multi- dimensional approaches including biomechanical, biochemical, breathing related symptoms, and breathing functionality measures. They used the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) system to assess movement capability.

*Although the FMS screening system is not my preferred individual movement analysis I do believe that for the context of this study this system serves sufficient purpose.*

‘Individuals who exhibited biomechanical and biochemical signs of BPD were significantly more likely to score poorly on their FMS.’

BPD Functional Movement, Bradley and Esformes, 2014

More simply explained; Every individual that displayed BPDs failed their FMS!

And their Conclusion was:

‘These results demonstrate the importance of diaphragmatic breathing on functional movement. Inefficient breathing could result in muscular imbalance, motor control alterations, and physiological adaptations that are capable of modifying movement. These findings provide evidence for improved breathing evaluations by clinicians. ‘

BPD Functional Movement, Bradley and Esformes, 2014

So, whether we love the FMS tool or not the conclusion is obvious, diaphragmatic breathing is the only way to move efficiently without compensation!

The Journal of Bodywork and Movement published an article in 2016, where the questioning of the accuracy of results using the FMS system continued and researchers were not satisfied with the consistency of outcome. The 2014 study demonstrated a direct relationship between BDPs and failed FMS scores but now poses the question of how accurate the FMS findings can be if a breathing assessment is not included in the analysis.

This article concluded with;

‘The widespread influence of imbalanced breathing is not always appreciated in clinical settings — and it is clearly of considerable importance when attempting to evaluate an individual’s propensity for injury via any form of functional assessment — whether an athlete of otherwise — to also incorporate evaluation of that most critical of functions — breathing.’

Functional Movement and Breathing Dysfunction. Chaitow – Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2016)

Are we seeing any correlation between our breathing and movement? My simpleton conclusion is, maybe we test individual’s breathing function. Looking at movement capability without including the breath is not giving us sufficient information. If a BPD is present we can now assume movement inefficiencies and most likely pain and discomfort and the individual is far more likely to injure, especially while performing athletics. In the final study used for reference, researchers were looking to illustrate how to; ‘assess and classify BPDs prior to or in conjunction with treatment of musculoskeletal pain or dysfunction.’ Some pretty powerful results came from this work and worth a read if you’re interested, but if not here’s some of the discussion researchers provided:

‘While the biomechanical factors are visible to the clinician it is important to remember biochemical components of the respiratory system as well. Changes in the body’s pH level, allergies, dietary factors, hormone levels, or internal organ dysfunction can potentially lead to premature fatigue, breathlessness, dyspnea, and resultant muscle pain. The mind and body work together to maintain homeostasis during times of stress and anxiety. While research is limited in understanding the emotional factors contributing to BPDs, researchers have suggested that memories, past experiences, and emotional states can have an effect on breathing patterns.’

Breathing Pattern Disorder Sports. Chapman et al. 2016

This comment is always cemented in my mind and keeps my breath practice a priority:

‘If breathing is not normalized, no other movement pattern can be.’

Breathing Pattern Disorder Sports. Chapman et al. 2016

Their conclusion:

‘Restoring proper breathing mechanics and neuromuscular motor control patterns during breathing may result in a decrease in pain, improved patient outcomes, and overall patient well being associated with their primary musculoskeletal complaint. A comprehensive evaluation of breathing patterns, as a part of an orthopedic examination, may guide a clinician in providing effective and appropriate treatments to decrease pain and improve function.’

Breathing Pattern Disorder Sports. Chapman et al. 2016

What does it mean for us and what action can we take today?

First, how’s your breathing? Are you aware of it? Conscious of it? Using your nose to breathe and saving your mouth for eating and speaking? Are you sleeping deeply? Well, not if you are mouth breathing during sleep. If you’re not breathing well at rest you certainly will not breathing effectively during sport or those stressful moments of life! Do you understand the gas exchange taking place within each and every breath? And, not just Oxygen, and (what some unfortunately believe is a waste gas) Carbon Dioxide but Nitric Oxide (the Nobel prize was awarded in 1998 for the discovery concerning nitric oxide as a signalling molecule in the cardiovascular system…), and the biochemical aspect of our breath? Diaphragmatic breathing means what exactly? The biomechanics or ‘breathing muscles’, our diaphragm is burdened with approximately 70% of the breathing load for each inhale and every exhale. Are you specifically training the diaphragm and other supporting tissues for critical breathing mechanics? Do you know your resting respiratory rate or even what it should and can be? How many breaths are you taking a minute, an hour, a day? Probably far too many like the majority of us humans today. Consciously controlled cadenced breath will put you in command of your Central Nervous System, and shouldn’t you be the one driving?

Sign-up, it’s FREE, and get access to our Functional Breathing Tool and learn how you can quickly assess and determine where you fall on the BPD (Breathing Pattern Disorder) spectrum and what you can do to improve your respiratory health. The studies are clear how we breathe directly impacts our movement so let’s get breathing better and take the necessary first steps to being Functionally Competent!

BPD Functional Movement. Bradley and Esformes. 2014
Functional Movement and Breathing Dysfunction. Chaitow – Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2016) Breathing Pattern Disorder Sports. Chapman et al. 2016

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