Belly Breathing vs Chest Breathing: Benefits and Side Effects

Belly Breathing vs Chest Breathing: What’s the difference?  Breathing helps air get in and out of the human body. More Exactly, by breathing, we take oxygen into our lungs where it enters the bloodstream and goes to all parts of the body. For energy production, cells require oxygen during the conversion of food nutrients. On the flip side, breathing out (exhaling) removes carbon dioxide, a waste gas produced by cells, from the body. If carbon dioxide builds up, it can be toxic.

For better respiratory health and general wellness it is important to know about the difference between abdominal breathing and chest breathing. Both are ways of inhaling and exhaling air but they greatly vary in efficiency, body impact as well as advantages accrued from them.

Belly Breathing vs Chest Breathing: The Difference

Belly Breathing Vs Chest Breathing: Benefits And Side Effects

Belly breathing means you use the diaphragm the main breathing muscle which is found under the rib cage. When you inhale, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward hence the lungs have more room to expand inside your chest. Again, when exhaling, it relaxes and moves upwards.

Chest breathing on the other hand also known as thoracic breathing involves using mostly the chest and shoulder muscles to expand and contract it in breathing. Unlike belly breath where there is much movement in the abdominal region, during this process little or no part of the lungs system is employed while only a small section within them gets affected.

Belly Breathing: Benefits & Side Effects


Stress Relief and Relaxation: Belly breathing is known to help reduce stress and promote relaxation. When practiced regularly, it can lower cortisol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure, leading to a more peaceful state of mind. This relaxation response can also help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Increased Oxygenation: Deeper breathing using the diaphragm allows more air into the lungs during each breath as compared to shallower chest breathing. This means that greater levels of energy might be realized due to increased oxygenation; mental alertness could also improve while physical activity becomes enhanced as well.

Improved Breathing and Lung Function: If someone has asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), belly breathing may be beneficial for them since this technique can assist an individual in strengthening their respiratory system thereby increasing its efficiency further more it has also been noted that such people tend to have larger lung capacity too. The reason behind all these is that when we do diaphragmatic breathing our lungs get filled up completely hence there will not only more space available but also better chances created where gases can easily exchange.

Enhanced Body-Mind Connection: It is believed that doing abdomen breaths helps people become more mindful of the connection between their body and mind. By concentrating on one’s respiration taking deep intentional inhalations can promote grounding as well self-awareness would be cultivated too.

Better Digestion: Diaphragmatic breathing has been tied to bettering digestion. The diaphragm massages the vagus nerve, which is critical for digestion and various other bodily functions. This can result in lessening constipation symptoms and improved bowel function

Reduced Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression: One study showed that abdominal breathing could be helpful in managing mental health symptoms like anxiety or depression. The deep and rhythmic way of breathing will help to calm your mind down, thus reducing any signs of anxiousness while at the same time making you feel better emotionally overall.

Improved Adaptability to Exercise: It has been found that diaphragmatic breaths can increase one’s ability to handle exercises with high intensity levels. When you do this type of breathing, you strengthen your diaphragm muscle making it possible for more efficient use of energy during physical activities.

Reduced Risk of Injury: Belly breathings are important as they prevent injuries or strains when working out. This is because when done right, belly breathings allow individuals to save their strengths while at the same time putting less pressure on other muscles through engaging the diaphragm

Side Effects

While belly breathing is generally considered safe and beneficial, there are some potential risks and side effects to consider:

Ineffective for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Deep breathing exercises may not be effective for individuals with generalized anxiety disorder. In such cases, other techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy may be more beneficial.

Potential for Increased Anxiety: If deep breathing exercises do not work as expected, they can sometimes cause more anxiety in individuals with anxiety disorders.

Note: Practice belly breathing correctly to avoid any potential negative effects. Increased stress and anxiety can result from doing it the wrong way. Consult with your doctor or respiratory therapist before starting belly breathing exercises if you have COPD or other chronic health conditions.

How To:

Belly Breathing Vs Chest Breathing: Benefits And Side Effects

Belly breathing must be carried out properly to avoid any adverse effects, follow these steps:

  • Start With The Supine Position: Begin by lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Relax in this position so as to concentrate better on your breathing without any disturbances.
  • Place Your Hands Correctly: During belly breaths, put one hand on the upper part of your chest and another below the rib cage but above the belly button. This enables one to feel movements of both chest and abdomen when taking deep breaths.
  • Breathe In Slowly: Inhale through your nose gently; allow the air fill up towards lungs deeply down into lower parts of abdomen or towards pelvis area while doing so push out all tightness from these areas too. During this time around don’t let the hand placed at upper chest move at all; let only the one situated on top of stomach rise as diaphragm moves downwards.
  • Contract And Release: As you breathe out through pursed lips tighten up stomach muscles then push them back towards your spine relaxing them afterward while taking another breath in deeply.In numerous occasions, normal exhalation will be accompanied by a lowering of the hand initially placed near the lowermost part of the tummy till it reaches its initial position.
  • Experiment With Different Poses: Perform belly breaths while assuming various postures like sitting on a chair with knees bent or standing straight up against wall etcetera.
  • Monitor Your Breath Intake: Be keen about how deep or shallow you take your breaths so that they may all be full, slow, and felt from up and down sides especially the upper side which should push your hand upwards during inhalation. Don’t forget also to keep it gentle throughout but at least make sure one takes more than one per minute while sitting down resting.
  • Regularly Practice: Normally you should do this activity severally within twenty-four hours say five to ten minutes at every trial. The purpose of such frequent exercises is not only to enable oneself to get used to doing them often but also to establish a better breathing routine in the future.
  • Avoid Forced Expiration: Never force expiration, as this can lead to increased turbulence in the airways, bronchospasm, and airway restriction. Allow expiration to be relaxed or lightly controlled.
  • Avoid Prolonged Expiration: Do not allow yourself to take a highly prolonged expiration, as this can cause you to gasp with the next inspiration, leading to irregular and insufficient breathing.
  • Monitor Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s response to belly breathing. If you experience any discomfort or pain, stop and consult with a healthcare professional.

Chest Breathing: Benefits & Side Effects


Chest breathing can be useful in short bursts when running from danger or in situations where rapid breathing is necessary. This type of breathing can help increase oxygen intake quickly, although it is not a sustainable or healthy long-term breathing pattern.

Side Effects

Increased stress and anxiety: Chest breathing activates accessory respiratory muscles that tighten the neck, chest, and vocal cords, which can trigger a fight-or-flight stress reflex. This can lead to increased anxiety and stress levels.

Coughing and hoarseness: Prolonged chest breathing can contribute to coughing and hoarseness due to the strain on the respiratory muscles.

Tension headaches: Chest breathing can lead to tension headaches due to the constant contraction of the neck and shoulder muscles.

Chest tightness and shortness of breath: Chest breathing can cause chest tightness and shortness of breath as the lungs are not fully utilized, leading to inefficient oxygen intake.

Negative impact on overall health: Chest breathing can have a negative impact on overall health by contributing to chronic conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and sleep apnea, which can further exacerbate breathing difficulties

How To:

  • Sit or stand up straight with your shoulders relaxed.
  • Breathe in through your nose, allowing your chest to expand. Your shoulders may rise slightly.
  • Exhale through your mouth, letting your chest fall. Your shoulders may lower.
  • Repeat, focusing on your chest and shoulders moving with each breath.

Chest breathing is less efficient than diaphragmatic breathing and can lead to negative effects like increased stress, anxiety, tension headaches, and shortness of breath. It is not recommended as a primary breathing technique.

ALSO READ: Butterfly Chest Exercise Benefits For Muscles And Beyonds





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