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For me, lifting heavy weights three days a week fixed my posture, heart rate, and breathing issues. Back exercises like deadlifts and barbell rows were especially helpful for countering the tendency to hunch forward due to computer use. The endorphin release is also a great mood booster.

I say this because it makes me wonder about the causality. I’m not convinced breathing exercises by themselves do much good for physical health, but rather that good breathing habits are a consequence of overall good health.

Your intuition isn't bad but there is an emerging space of research amongst biomechanics and physiotherapists about how breathing is coupled to the nervous system.

You could argue that maybe anything that raises your breathing rate through exercise forcibly achieves the effect of getting those nerves firing but you also encounter breathing exercises as a therapy in quite a few avenues: yoga, wim hof, tantra, pilates, meditation, tai chi (to name a few)

There's probably some shared roots between some of the listed roots but I find it curious that the act of conscious breathing is encountered in so many different places and is now becoming a little more mainstream through mindfulness

A note that wim hof is actually an adaptation of a buddhist practice. Pilates is also a crossover between gym and yoga in the early 20th century.

Mindfulness is also a central tenet in buddhism and yoga.

For at least two thousand years buddhism and yoga had this cross pollination when it came to breathing techniques, mindfulness and meditation.

Oh yeah for sure. I guess the interesting thing for me is the resurgence or staying power of this practice is at least an indication of there being something there

Absolutely, I have studied this field for a while now and in some regards there are very modern aspects to it. The inquisitive and critical aspect of these philosophies kept it dynamic and weeded out practices that weren’t as effective.

Even in the 15th / 16th century there was a warning to stay away from fake gurus.

Shaolin legend has it it was a yogi Bodhidharma that revived the physical practice after the fitness of the residents was declining.

I say this in the sense that there was a lot of cross pollination going on, and archiving a lot of practices from eachother.

I'm in complete agreement with respect to the benefits for CNS stimulation. I have no doubt there are other ways to achieve it than lifting heavy weights, just that that method has been particularly helpful for me. I recall seeing some research a while back that the neural stimulation of lifting actually improves brain health. Naively that seems weird, but once you learn a bit about how motor units are recruited it starts to make sense. My knowledge of biology is at the undergraduate level, but my intuition and personal experience both say that there are no truly discrete systems in the body. They all affect each other to some degree, just some more than others. Given that, the idea that breathing exercises could cause positive adaptions in the CNS is something I'd expect. Where I'm ignorant is what the magnitude of those adaptions is given what appears to be a relatively mild training stimulus. My guess is that advanced efficacious breathing techniques must be far from mild, but I freely admit my ignorance since I've never done anything past the silicon valley corporate mindfulness workshop.

Controlled breathing is essential during strength training

A lot of people here advocating for strength training, but aren't mentioning the caveat: potential for injury. I used to spend 6 days a week doing a mixture of HIIT and strength training. Despite my best attempts, there were occasional lapses in form, and I found that I was developing joint pains, and indeed a few injuries.

Controlled breathing, as mentioned, is central to the wim hof method, the yogic practice of pranayama, and to many kinds of martial arts and meditation, and doesn't really have the potential for injury (with the exclusion of the more physically demanding martial arts). Some of those practices are also more accessible to people with mobility issues.

My personal experience with yoga and meditation, is a very significant uplift in mood, and better sleep (I used to have a very bad snoring problem). I also do a mix of weighted exercise, callisthenics, and cardio, and I've found the combination to work very well.

Here’s one caveat for you specifically: don’t train six days a week.

That's kinda straw-manning my point :) But to clarify, I wasn't strictly doing heavy weight for each of those days, and yes I could have taken it easier.

That's not really straw-manning when exercise-induced injury is the main point you are trying to make.

6 days a week of HIIT training, without enough time for your body to recover is a recipe for injury. Of course, this can vary from person to person and the intensity of the workout and the level of your experience and form - but these are things you didn't mention.

Point taken. To clarify, it wasn't always 6 days a week, that was an over-exaggeration by me. An average was maybe ~4.5 days a week, and some days were much lighter than others. I was maybe trying to communicate that I've invested in this kind of regime, and it's derailed the conversation away from the point I was trying to make.

HIIT is very specific, you’re talking bout going past your lactic acid threshold, they are very hard to recover from. So much so that it will stop you from other exercise. You wouldn’t even be thinking about lifting weights.

This would of course lead to injury. I don’t think anyone wants to squat heavy after sprinting.

Weightlifting is pretty safe when done right. Just make sure you have plenty of rest. At the same time, unrelated, but the posture benefits are way overrated. In fact, it’s gonna lead to bad posture over time unless you couple it with yoga or some sort of corrective stretching.

> This would of course lead to injury. I don’t think anyone wants to squat heavy after sprinting.

That's a fair call. Heavy weight training was usually on separate days, but I recall some crossfit WODs would include deadlifts alongside other fast-paced exercises, and now I question the safety of that. Those deadlifts were likely low weight, high-rep though.

You wouldn’t be developing joint pain if you took a couple days to rest and recover. That’ why your caveat is a non issue.

Regarding strength training and injury you have a point: if you are a beginner avoid anything with a powerlifting bias (i.e. adding weight is the main objective). Stronglifts, r/fitness, ... Also bench press will not do much for posture.

Bodyweight training/calisthenics is interesting but is lacking on two of the best exercises for posture: Face pulls and (Romanian) Deadlifts. For Deadlifts light to moderate weight is enough, with perfect form, be careful if you have tight hamstring to work on mobility.

Just to clarify: I was training with a gym instructor friend and he was assessing my form and we were doing the whole gamut of exercises. We were doing heavy weight training 1-3 times a week (deadlifts, clean+jerk, strict press, amongst others) mixed up with other crossfit style routines (kettle bells, calisthenics, gymnastics, cardio).

Bodyweight stuff is what I mostly do now with some weighted exercises, but I'm keen to get into heavier weights again.

I have a big snoring problem. Did yoga help you with that?

From memory, I believe it did. But since then I've taken up meditation which has had a much larger impact on my life, and so it's hard to tease apart which helps what, and to what degree.

The technique I learnt was at a 10-day silent retreat, of which we spent the first days (9-hours a day) exclusively on concentrating on respiration. With this new awareness, I realised, just in my day to day, and especially when I'm trying to focus, I sometimes forget to breathe. This is something I otherwise would not have noticed and not corrected. Also important to note that I used to have mild sleep apnoea, and I would always wake up feeling groggy from lack of oxygen. I haven't had a sleep study since I've started practicing, but I no longer wake up groggy, and now I can go to sleep within the hour instead of tossing and turning half the night.

I've noticed that yoga and meditation have also improved my breathing and form during exercise.


Know someone who had this issue, turned out to be related to sleep apnea. Their life totally changed after it was diagnosed and a CPAP was used during sleep.

No. Loosing weight and fixing your TSH levels will..

I only had mild sleep apnoea (according to a sleep study). Meditation (maybe not yoga) did reduce symptoms for me, but there are many contributing factors, and for severe cases CPAP is often necessary. Based on my limited anecdata, I think meditation could help other reduce or manage their symptoms, and I strongly doubt it could be harmful.

Good point. Thinking about it, I achieved similar benefits from marathon running and at the time I now realise I was taking breathing quite seriously (understandably).

I actually find controlled breathing is very good for regulating pain.

As a beginner runner (2.15 half time) how can I use breathing effectively?

Kind of too long for an HN post but long distance running is all a game of efficiency. Good breathing makes sure your oxygen levels are working for you rather than against you. I remember subtle things like switching between calmer breathing to steady the heartrate and deeper faster breathing for getting over a hill. This all can happen naturally, but you'll be surprised the difference in doing the breathing mindfully/proactively rather than passively.

The breathing also helps mentally but also helps relax the body. As you are exerting yourself it can be a natural response to carry tension in your body. Tension is usually the enemy of body mechanics - it leads to inefficient technique.

Watch any sport (including running) and something notable about any pro is how easy or relaxed they look.

This can be learned and breathing has some chicken/egg relationship with relaxation

I'd say it's impossible to lift weights close to one's max, without controlling one's breath :- )

Meaning, one a bit learns to control the breath, without thinking about it, just doing?

Just from my own experience, I wonder if a lot of the benefit of such things is simply from habitually paying attention to your body, whether your lifting technique, or your breathing.

Lifting works faster. Trying to change your posture by noticing and correcting it is just brutally difficult. You need to mindfully check in multiple times an hour. Lifting you only need to attend to your posture while you’re doing it and your posture will improve without conscious effort as your tendons and sinews stretch and you get more muscle. Running or dancing will do the same thing but the returns on each hour of work are going to be lower than for lifting weights.

I'll add an endorsement for lifting, especially as part of cross-training for another sport to avoid injury.

I am also extremely partial to sprinting. The closest you can come without drugs to a certain type of very lean and muscular physique is to combine lifting and sprinting. Sprinting is great for your abdominals, quads, calves, so it can really balance out the bulky, top-heavy look that can come from only lifting.

Can you recommend a sprinting regimen?

I’ve been lifting weights for 15 odd years, and while I agree with you, it’s not always a magic bullet.

After a period of excessive work (slumping in a chair for 18 hours a day), combined with a sports injury, I ended up with a very messed up posture. Lifting weights actually exacerbated the issue, rather than fixing it.

Lifting is also one of the most efficient ways to stretch. The only thing to know is the you should always do the motion with a full range of motion (ROM). Full ROM is actually best for making muscle, but if you also do it with a your bodyweight on your back, it's practically THE perfect stretching exercise.

+1 to dead lifts... one of my favorite exercises. They are great, especially for most of us that stay in front of the computer most of the day, they are awesome and getting your body form back into the right shape.

Just be careful with form, and learn the technique well before increasing the weights, as they can be intense for your back.

Seriously don't try to go heavy on deadlifts until your form is 100%. It's a great exercise (possibly the best), but have someone to correct your form realtime, or lift light and film on your phone, check it, correct, lift again 'light' until it's on point. Get someone else who knows their stuff to form check it as well. Always better to lift light and correct rather than heavy and wrong.

I always thought there was an opening for an Xbox Kinect like solution to this problem, that analysed form and warned what was wrong, but I guess the liability for something like that is just too great.

And... read Rippetoe, I still think it's the best text any serious lifter should have read through at least once.

Athos gear (https://www.liveathos.com/) is able to do live form feedback.

Heavy weight training is the only thing that has ever 100% fixed me. Trying to get back into it right now.

I really miss lifting weights. Gyms have been closed for three months due to the pandemic, and I can feel my muscle mass evaporating. I can do some bodyweight exercises at home, but there's no room for weights in a tiny flat :-(.

I know bodyweight is no perfect substitute and you probably already know this, but you can still have progressions of bodyweight exercise variants in a way that mimics progressive overload of weight to some extent. Check out the infographic here - http://www.startbodyweight.com/2014/01/basic-routine-infogra... - 8 types of exercise with progressively tougher variants. If nothing else it helps keeps things interesting

Buy a pair of adjustible weight dumbbells. There's a wealth of workouts you can do with just those.

I keep them in a corner of my room. Takes up basically no space.

Problem is they're out of stock everyone since the pandemic.

When you are angry you breathe fast, when you’re relaxed you breathe slowly, you must have noticed that. Emotions affect breathing. The reverse is also true, if you control your breathing you can control your emotions/feelings and overall physical well being.

In India a whole branch of yoga called Svara Yoga has developed over thousands of years that examines deeply into the subtlety of breathing and its related affects [0].

0: https://www.vedicbooks.net/svara-yoga-p-15882.html (Disclaimer: I just found this book on Svara Yoga in english; I haven't read it myself.)

> I’m not convinced breathing exercises by themselves do much good for physical health, but rather that good breathing habits are a consequence of overall good health.

The causality is clear at this point. Breathing and focus exercises like meditation are deadlifts for your brain. Like most other organs, it adapts to various stimuli.

If you're not convinced that breathing can affect your physiology or your mental state, try hyperventilating for a few minutes. I strongly advise stopping before you pass out.

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