Diaphragmatic breathing is commonly use breath technique to reduce stress and relax the mind in yoga and meditation practices. Diaphragmatic breath practice is simply breathing deeply into the lungs by flexing the diaphragm back and forth.  A recent study in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, examined the use of diaphragmatic breath with endurance athletes during a 24 hour bike race. This was the first known study to analyze oxidative stress levels in athletes and the effects of diaphragmatic breathing. Researchers explored the effects of diaphragmatic breathing on exercise-induced oxidative stress measuring cortisol and melatonin levels.

Oxidative stress is defined by Dr. Andrew Weil as “… for the process of removing electrons from an atom or molecule. The result of this change can be destructive - rusting iron is a familiar result of oxidation. Oxidative stress is the total burden placed on organisms by the constant production of free radicals in the normal course of metabolism plus whatever other pressures the environment brings has natural and artificial radiation, pollution, and toxins in air, food and water". The athletes in this study were monitored during a 24 hour long ultra bike race. Researchers observed 16 athletes in two groups. One group utilized diaphragmatic breathing for 1 hour in a quiet place. The control group, spent the same time sitting in an equivalent quiet place with access to reading materials.
Results indicated that diaphragmatic breathing techniques induce relaxation increase the antioxidant defense status.  Scientists noted a decrease in cortisol and the increase in melatonin. Follow up research is needed to see if a diaphragmatic breathing could be utilized among different types of athletes demographics. Researchers can also investigate the long-term adverse effects of free radicals and oxidative stress levels.  From this study the implementation of diaphragmatic breathing and meditation techniques could be integrated into athletic and sports training programs improve performance and to accelerate recovery.
See more about: