Winter breathing tips

Winter breathing tips

10 tips to improve your breathing in the winter cold. By Professor John Dickinson, head of the Exercise Respiratory Clinic at the University of Kent

As winter air temperatures drop, many people report difficulty breathing when taking part in outside activities. Below are 10 top tips to for improving breathing in the cold weather from Professor John Dickinson, head of the Exercise Respiratory Clinic in the University of Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Science.

1. Try to breathe through your nose

Nasal breathing warms and humidifies the air before it reaches the lungs, meaning the air is better conditioned for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs. This is of course only possible during light to moderate activity and isn’t suitable for heavier exercise.

2. Wear face coverings over the mouth and nose

This can help warm and humidify the air making it feel easier to breath. A scarf or a facial mask could be used for this to great effect.

3. Wear temperature-appropriate clothing

If your clothing is not keeping you warm then you may start to tense up, leading to a change in posture that can cause a tight chest or shortness of breath.

4. Focus on improving your posture

It is important to avoiding hunching your shoulders in cold weather. Such bad posture is very restrictive for your breathing so focus on standing in a good posture with relaxed shoulders, despite the inclination to clench-up.

5. Consider a warm-up inside

Before you go out into the cold for exercise, brief your body with a quick warm up.

This helps prepare muscles for exercise and ensures they’re appropriately warm before you emerge into the cold.

6. Don’t pressure yourself for results in winter

It is much harder to exercise in the cold, so don’t beat yourself up if you are not getting near your personal best. Leave that for the spring, summer and autumn. When the temperature improves, you can begin to push yourself further.

7. Remember your preventer inhalers

If you have asthma, ensure you are regularly using your preventer inhalers (e.g. brown and purple). The cold weather can be a significant trigger for asthma and preventer inhalers reduce the inflammation in your airways that triggers the asthma.

8. Remember your rescue inhalers

If you have asthma, remember to carry your rescue inhaler with you (blue inhaler) just in case you need it.

9. If you need to stop, then stop

It’s not worth pushing yourself to exercise if you’re struggling to inhale the breath that you need to move forward. If you’re struggling for breath, you should focus on that, rather than exercising.

10. Don’t feel restricted by the cold weather

Though you shouldn’t feel restricted from enjoying the season by the cold weather, remember the effect it can have and plan ahead for Christmas events and remember the above top tips.

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