How Shallow Breathing Could Affecting Your Health

The Exhale
November 12, 2021
5 min read

One of the key focuses and goals of Breathwrk is to combat the prevalence of shallow breathing in daily life. While newborn babies and younger children instinctively know how to breathe correctly, at some point, many of us lose the ability to naturally achieve a state of deep breathing, leading to a habit of shallow breathing that can adversely affect our health in the long term.

In most cases, shallow breathing can be caused by the formation of harmful habits, lack of conscious awareness, and a poor understanding of our bodies. Those prone to overthinking usually have it the worst, as these habits customarily come about as a result of anxiety and stress.

Even worse, stressors to the body, such as pollution, noise, and dramatically increased time indoors, have led us to naturally tighten our abdomens and hold our breaths in anticipation of the next source of stress to arrive at our doorstep.

Thankfully, there are ways to recognize the prevalence of shallow breathing in the body before moving on to a remedy. In today’s blog, we’re going to explore the symptoms and effects of shallow breathing on the body and what to look for to recognize its impact on your well-being.


When described as a chronic condition, shallow breathing is often attributed as a symptom of a more significant issue, such as illness, chest pain, or an infection in the lungs.

However, many of us experience a form of shallow breathing that results from habit rather than a result of trauma on the body. This happens when the body forms an unhealthy breathing pattern where the chest rises vertically in the chest rather than horizontally as the lungs expand.

Symptoms of this habitual shallow breathing pattern include movement of the upper chest as described above, fast breathing, and occasional breathlessness that seemingly stems from no source. In some cases, these symptoms can manifest in such a way as to form a paradoxical breathing pattern where the abdomen tightens during inhalation before relaxing exhalation.

Chronically Stressed

As a result of the symptoms of shallow breathing, the body can enter a state of chronic hyperventilation, where the brain stays in a constant state of alertness and as a result of getting too little air, which can lead to bouts of headaches, dizziness, and higher blood pressure.

Chronic hyperventilation also has the snowball effect of making it harder for the mind and body to respond to stress in a measured manner. The brain struggles to regulate the relationship between the nervous and endocrine systems, leading to a state of chronic stress as a result.

Chronic stress occurs when the body experiences a constant state of stress over a long period and often leads to long-term physiological and psychological changes, often not for the better. Stress, particularly stress that lasts over a long time, is often a significant risk factor for the vast majority of human diseases, with heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis being the most notable examples.

When deep breathing is practiced regularly, stress levels often lower due to reduced shallow breathing occurring, bringing down cortisol levels while increasing the body’s production of melatonin.

For more information regarding how to manage your breathing for a more effective lifestyle, visit our other blogs here at The Exhale to get the latest tips and tricks. For free guided breathing exercises that you can take anywhere, try out the Breathwrk app here.

And remember: Breathe Better, Live Better.


The Exhale