Breathing correctly: important for body and mind

Breathing happens automatically, but if you learn how to consciously regulate your breathing you will soon see why breathing correctly is so important. Breathing correctly can give us more energy and even reduce stress and anxiety.

19.02.2024 Nina Merli 3 minutes

We do it every day – 500 million times during our lives: breathing. But despite taking around 20,000 breaths a day, we give this vital process little consideration. Breathing correctly has a significant impact on our well-being and benefits our physical and mental health in various ways.

What exactly happens in our body when we breathe? Find out how breathing works and which metabolic processes this triggers.

Why and how do we breathe?

Why breathing properly is so important

Breathing air in through our lungs transports oxygen to our blood. When we breathe out, carbon dioxide, a metabolic waste product, is released into the air and leaves the body. The better we supply our cells with oxygen, the more effectively we can eliminate toxins from our body. The respiratory centre in our brain ensures that we have an adequate supply of oxygen in every situation: it regulates our breathing rate and respiratory volume and sees to it that we are breathing properly.

A healthy adult takes between 12 and 20 breaths a minute when at rest. However, a study has shown that 60 to 80% of people do not breathe correctly, i.e. they take shorter and shallower breaths. Shallow breathing involves fast and sharp intakes of breath.

The consequences? Shallow breathing shifts our nervous system to a state of alert, making us feel like we are in a constant state of fight or flight and under stress. Conversely, consciously taking deep breaths can have a calming effect on our vegetative nervous system, contributing positively to our emotional state.

Ratgeber Breath

We cannot live without the oxygen we breathe in. When we breathe, there’s a lot more that happens than just oxygen being taken into the blood. Read in the Ratgeber Breath what happens in your body when you breathe and how breathing correctly can help you in everyday situations and when exercising.

What is proper breathing?

If someone is stressed, we often advise them simply to take a deep breath. Smart advice, given that breathing correctly can reduce stress and anxiety. But what does “breathing correctly” mean?

  • Always breathe in through your nose. This warms and moistens the air, protecting the respiratory tract. Breathing through your nose filters out toxins, bacteria and viruses too. It also ensures that we take more oxygen on board and stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system. This system has a calming and regenerating effect.
  • Abdominal respiration (diaphragmatic breathing) is the correct way to breathe, i.e. not simply breathing into the upper chest area, but deep into the abdomen. This strengthens the diaphragm and massages the internal organs. Abdominal respiration causes the diaphragm to tense and the abdomen to curve outwards during inhalation. The diaphragm relaxes on exhalation, and the abdomen flattens again.
  • If we spend a lot of time sitting, we start breathing into the chest instead of the abdomen. This can weaken the diaphragm and lead to shoulder and neck tension. That’s why it’s worth taking multiple breaks from sitting during the workday and consciously breathing into the belly.
  • People who are stressed and suffering from anxiety generally breathe in a manner that’s too fast and too shallow, which results in too much carbon dioxide being exhaled. However, carbon dioxide is indispensable for releasing oxygen into the body’s tissues and not having enough of it places the body under stress: we feel as if we aren’t getting enough air and start breathing faster. This creates a vicious cycle. In these situations, it’s important to be mindful and slow our breathing.

Breathing exercises help with stress and anxiety. Find out about the different breathing exercises in this blog article.

Four breathing exercises for relaxation

Conscious breathing with the Helsana Coach app

Want to find out how to breathe properly? The Helsana Coach app gives you helpful tips and shows you breathing exercises you can incorporate into your day-to-day life. Helsana Coach also provides fascinating background information and answers to key health-related questions.

The next time you feel stressed, the first thing you should do is pay more attention to your breathing – it makes a difference. Consciously taking just a few minutes a day to breathe properly can have a positive impact on the mind and body. Straighten your posture while doing so to allow your breath to flow into your stomach: this will quickly help you feel more relaxed and improve your mood!

Breathing classes – covered by Helsana

Breathing exercises can relieve stress and tension. COMPLETA supplementary insurance covers 75% of the costs of recognised health promotion courses, up to a maximum of CHF 200 per year.


All the benefits of TOP and SANA – in some cases with higher reimbursements.

Read more

Breathe correctly during sport – how it works
Those who breathe correctly when strength training and jogging not only find training easier, but also boost their training results.
March 30, 2022 3 minutes

Breathing techniques to beat stress, panic and sleep issues
You can control how you breathe. These three breathing techniques will help you lower your pulse, handle breathing issues and fall asleep faster.
February 21, 2024 4 minutes


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