There's one thing we all do from the moment we are born to our last second on earth: breathe. We all know how important exercise to our overall health, but breathing properly is just as important.

The air we breathe contains oxygen, and when that oxygen enters our lungs, it's transported to every cell in our bodies. The key here is to breathe long breaths, thus filling our lungs with this crucial nutrient.

The problem is many of us don't do that. We tend to overbreathe. Overbreathing is when we take shallow breaths, drawing minimal air into the lungs.

This can be quite dangerous to long-term health. If we overbreathe, oxygen flow to the tissues and cells will decrease over time. In addition, the brain might not receive enough oxygen, and the heart must work harder (more beats per minute.)

In simple terms, the heart pumps blood, oxygen and other nutrients throughout the body. Your cells take what they need, in exchange for waste and toxins as a trade-off. These waste products are then sent to the kidneys and liver to be eliminated from the body. Breathing is the catalyst to keep this system running smoothly.

Deep breathing makes the heart more efficient, allowing it to pump blood and oxygen through the body in a more effective manner. At the same time, the toxins in our body are removed more efficiently.

According to some studies, overbreathing is a major contributor to many illnesses, including cancer, pneumonia, high blood pressure, heart attacks, hyperventilating, panic attacks and strokes.

Deep breathing also has a calming effect. When a person is about to give a big speech, he or she is told to take a deep breath. Why? Because it slows the heart rate down, relaxes you and calms your nerves.

Deep breathing is important in exercise as well because muscles require more oxygen when being used. If your muscles don't get oxygen, they'll become fatigued and force you to stop.

Think of a football game. After a big play, the player goes to the sideline and grabs an oxygen mask. Why does he do this? To get as much oxygen into his body/muscles as he can.

So, how does deep breathing work?

  • Take a long, slow breath through your nose and allow it to fill up your stomach like a balloon
  • Slowly release the air through your mouth, allowing your stomach to "deflate."
  • Repeat over and over

Putting your hand on your stomach is a great way to feel the deep breathing work inside you. Practice it whenever you can, any time it crosses your mind. Eventually, it will become second nature. Practicing when going to bed at night will also help you fall asleep.

Breathing is something we all do, but not very well. Start deep breathing today. Your body will thank you.