Just like any other form of competitive sports out there, breathing is highly fundamental to the competitive realm of e-sports too, along with owning the most powerful gaming laptop. It might sound far-fetched at first, but hear me out. It’s a no-brainer how good breathing techniques are in maintaining consistent oxygen supply throughout the whole body as it elevates an athlete’s performance immensely. The same principle is applicable to competitive gaming. Optimal breathing improves a gamer’s general health and minimizes injury.
Scientifically, optimal breathing is constituted as deep, rhythmic breaths focused within our abdomens rather than our chests. However, it’s due to poor breathing habits developed over time post-infancy that resulted in the typical short and relatively shallower breaths taken by the majority of the world’s population today. Unfortunately, these breathing habits are known to cause higher incidences of hypertension and terrible posture.
Correlation Between Effective Breathing and Athleticism
If you’re not convinced about the benefits of optimal breathing by now, allow me to elucidate more on the matter. Merely changing your habit of chest breathing into deep-belly breathing can incur the following health benefits: reduced stress, muscle tension and fatigue levels, calmer nerves, sharper focus, and overall, encourages more positive thinking.
For athletes competing in aerobic sports like marathons, swimming, or cycling, breathing correctly can make all the difference between the victor and the loser. To sustain prolonged aerobic exertion, it’s pertinent for these athletes to maintain a steady heart rate. This calms the body and by extension, incurs greater alertness and focus from them.
For more strength-intensive sports, breathing becomes even more essential to powerlifters and bodybuilders. Taking huge and deep breaths is necessary to increase intra-abdominal pressure in order to stabilize their spines and optimize their strength at full capacity when lifting weights. This explains why all weight-lifters look out of breath after each round because they are quite literally so.
Lastly, breathing is just as crucial during the resting periods in between exercises. Without sufficient oxygen-intake to your cells, muscles cannot regenerate properly, resulting in poorer performances subsequently.
Correlation Between Effective Breathing and Gaming
When it comes to gaming, proper breathing is effective in a different way than strenuous physical activity. The closest analogy I can draw between gaming and exercise would be aerobic exercise. Similarly to how aerobic exercise is a prolonged activity, so are your gaming marathons. However, instead of a mobile, physical exertion, gaming is more like a “static, endurance sport” involving intense cognition and motor skills in a virtual environment. Hence, poor breathing has the potential to inhibit adequate sensory input and dexterity output. If your brain is not calm and focused, those quick-time events and split-second decisions capable of changing the tide in any game become more difficult to execute.
A New Way of Breathing
Hence, in order to properly acquaint ourselves with proper breathing techniques, we must first be aware of what counts as “non-optimal” breathing. Essentially, improper breathing focuses on shallow breaths occurring in the chest instead of the abdomen (where the diaphragm is located). On average, the human inhales and exhales a total of 23,040 times. That’s a lot of time to be breathing incorrectly.
Additionally, the stereotypical posture of gamers includes a hunched back from sitting over their keyboard or controllers for prolonged periods of time. Over time, poor breathing in conjunction with poor posture results in the body forgetting how to properly use the original muscle, the diaphragm, for breathing. Instead, the body begins to rely more on the chest and other muscles to facilitate the process. Utilizing these secondary muscles for breathing thus causes posture deterioration over time in the form of forward-rounded shoulders, over-extended necks, and weaker back muscles. Impaired back muscle groups include your latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, lower trapezius, rhomboids, and quadratus lumborum.
As a result, gamers become more susceptible to a wide array of physical ailments like shoulder instability and shoulder impingement syndromes which restrict shoulder muscles from moving freely. The impaired shoulder muscles include the serratus anterior, biceps tendon, posterior deltoid, supraspinatus, and infraspinatus. All in all, gamers have a higher tendency to suffer from neck strains and back pain from constantly leaning forward too much.
Now that we’ve addressed the problem with our current breathing habits, we can move on to practicing optimal breathing. Inhale deeply while counting to four before exhaling the same counts. Place your palm on your stomach slightly below your rib cage to check if you’re breathing properly. If your abdomen expands outwards during inhalation, you’re doing it correctly. Otherwise, it’s time to revise your breathing.
A Step-by-step guide to Optimal Breathing
- Assume a relaxed posture — ensure your shoulders aren’t tense by either sitting or lying down.
- Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
- Use your nose to inhale for two seconds and feel the air travel to your abdomen as it expands. Your abdomen should rise more than your chest does.
- Exhale through pursed lips (not your nose) for two seconds while continually pressing against your abdomen.
- Repeat steps 1 to 4 until you get acquainted with the sensations.
As the saying goes, old habits die hard. Acquiring correct breathing habits won’t happen overnight. It takes consistent practice and considerable determination to commit to them. Initially, it will take a lot of conscious effort to do diaphragmatic breathing but over time, you’ll grow accustomed to it and it becomes second nature.
Since breathing is a mostly automatic and subconscious process, it can’t be helped that we as the human race end up falling into poor habits with time. Our environments are full of constant stimulation and our general health has fallen into decline as technology panders more and more to our convenience. Laziness begets complacency, and complacency begets indifference.
If anything, our poor breathing habits act as an overarching commentary on the importance of how the smallest things lead to the biggest differences. As long as we’re willing to practice good actions, it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Change will come to those who are patient and diligent. Thus, don’t be ambitious and think hitting the gym will resolve all your existing physical ailments. You have to nip the problem at its bud; and in this case, it’s most likely your breathing.
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