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Deep Breathing for Improved Relaxation

By now, you know the importance of relaxation in this fast-paced world. The next time you pause to practice deep breathing techniques and slowly count to 10, observe whether you can actually feel your heart rate slow down. Functions like heart rate and blood pressure are regulated by the autonomic nervous system. And people who consistently practice slow, deep breathing techniques can improve the efficiency of this system, according to an article published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research (2004; 120 [2], 115–21).

Researchers at the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research in Pondicherry, India, performed autonomic function tests on male volunteers aged 17–19 after they performed rapid and slow breathing exercises. After 3 months of practice, participants who performed slow, deep breathing techniques showed improved functioning of their autonomic nervous systems. In contrast, subjects who performed fast breathing exercises showed no similar improvement.

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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