Calm Your Nerves In The Comfort Of Your Home: Breathing Exercises for Seniors


breathing exercises for seniors


It's incredible how something as simple as breathing can be a powerful tool for calming your nerves and increasing mindful awareness. This simple repetitive act we perform over and over involuntarily (most of the time) may be key to helping you calm your nerves and relax the mind.

Think about how you breath when your body is in a relaxed state, it's usually slow and steady. With stress, comes increased breath and oftentimes more shallow breathing. Deep breathing can bode well for any individual, but can be even better for older adults. The sensation of deep breathing can help to remind the body how it feels in a more relaxed state. 

Much of the bodies response to deep breathing is due to signals that are being sent to the brain, as these signals stimulate parts of the brain responsible for rest/relaxation and or recovery (autonomic nervous system).


Now, back to breathing exercises for seniors, specifically!


While breathing alone may not have huge effects; when you take this movement and make voluntary changes, it may be quite powerful. Learning different breathing exercises for seniors and controlled breathing can be helpful.

As we age, our respiratory function can become more compromised, due to issues such as respiratory muscle weakness, comorbidities, etc. Muscles that support our breathing like the diaphragm can weaken. That being said, with weakened respiratory muscles and/or increased stiffness, the result can be more labored breathing and/or shallow breathing. Poor oxygenation can be one of the many culprits to feelings of anxiousness.

This is where breathing exercises, can be helpful. The best part about this is that it can be done in the comfort of your home.

One study looking specifically at inspiratory muscle training and yoga breathing exercises concluded that yoga respiratory training is effective, as well as well-tolerated for frail older adults. 

In this article we'll discuss some common breathing exercises seniors can perform to hopefully increase their quality of life, as well as enhance their mental state.


Here are some exercises to help get you started, with a guide!




I. Sitting Breathing Exercise

Sitting-breathing exercises for seniors can be extra beneficial as older adults may even be prone to getting light-headed or have difficulty standing for an extended period of time. Sitting-breathing exercises can be a great place to start. Now, there are several forms of exercises we can discuss, but for this sitting-breathing exercises, we'll talk belly breathing. 


Steps:

1. This exercise can be done sitting on a chair, the floor or even lying down supine. Do what is comfortable for you. 

2. Take one of your hands and place it on your belly. This should be roughly below your ribcage, but above your naval.

3. Place the alternate hand on your chest. 

4. Now, take an extended breath (or inhale) through your nares, noting the hand on your belly rising, and the hand on your chest should be stationary. 

5. Just as you inhaled slowly, attempt to exhale slowly as well, through what we call pursed-lip breathing efforts. (Tighten your lips like you're whistling). 

6 With this motion, you should now feel the hand on your belly falling or going-in. You can gently push on your belly to expel all the air. 

7. Repeat 10-20 times


Breathing exercises, like, diaphragmatic breathing is used heavily in practices like transcendental meditation and other forms of meditation

In fact, it has shown to have positive effects on things like heart rate and blood pressure. Types of deep breathing such as this is known to effect the brain, cardiovascular system, respiratory system and gastrointestinal system through control of autonomic nervous system. 

Not only can this type of breathing be positive from a physiological perspective, but also from a psychological perspective, and is another reason why it should be included as a breathing exercise for seniors, specifically. 


II. Thoracic Breathing

This is another great breathing exercise for seniors. It can be a great exercise to help build some endurance in the respiratory and supporting muscle groups.


Steps:

1. Start this exercise seated or standing. Place one hand, again, on your chest/thorax area.

2. Place your other hand on your abdomen.

3. Begin to inhale through your nares. As you inhale, focus on your ribcage, trying to send air through that area, instead of your abdomen.

4. Inhale slowly, and deeply. The hand over your chest should rise. With this breathing exercise for seniors, attempt to use your thorax and not your 'belly'.

5. Your other hand (over your abdomen) should remain motionless as much as possible. 

6. Now let your breath out, exhale. 

7. Repeat 10-20 times


III. Humming Breathing

The last breathing exercises we'll discuss today for seniors is known as humming breathing. This type of breathing is also called bee breath, and with the extended period of exhalation vs. inhalation may also help to decrease 'fight or flight' response and relax sooner. 


Steps:

1. You'll want to be in a seated position, while sitting as upright as possible, shoulders relaxed.

2. After you've exhaled as much as possible, relax your body and slowly take a deep breath in through your nares. 

3. With your lungs completely full, or as full as possible, release the air, and as you exhale, hum. Mmmmmmmmmmm......

4. You can also try and contract the stomach muscles as you exhale.

5. Continue until all air is expelled. Repeat

6. Do this 10-15 times


Final Thoughts!

These are some very easy and straightforward breathing exercises perfect for older individuals that can help create a better sense of calm, both mentally and physically. These types of breathing exercises for seniors may also help lead to better focus, while also helping to strengthen muscles that are paramount for better breathing habits!


Resources:

- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23835773/

- https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004011.htm

- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5575449/

- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7602530/

- https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/beginners/how-to/buzz-away-the-buzzing-mind/

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