Chest Breathing vs. Abdominal Breathing Controversy

Imagine if you could drastically improve your health just by breathing correctly. Yes there is a correct way to breathe.

Fill Your Lungs from Your Belly

So many have asked is it better to breathe with your belly or with your chest?

Think of chest breathing like your high speed back up function. It ALWAYS knows when to kick in, but not when to turn off. 

Belly breathing is far superior!

So controlling that switch has great benefits to your health since we breathe in and out upwards of 30,000 times per day!

The better question to ask yourself is Are you Breathing to Survive or Breathing to Thrive?

Chest breathing is not Correct breathing


Abdominal means belly.


Proper breathing increases your the bodies function at a cellular level.

Right about now you are saying, “Sure thing Doc, I have been breathing my whole life, I know how to breathe.”And this is true, we all know how to breathe to “Survive,” but how many of us breathe to “Thrive?”

There is a huge difference to your bodies health between breathing to thrive and breathing to survive.

Human road map


How do you breathe?

Let’s find out by doing a little self-examination. Take a moment and check-out how you breathe.

Look down at your belly, or in a mirror if one is handy. Breathe in and out a few times.

Not huge breaths, just a little deeper than normal.

What do you see? When breathing in

Is your chest rising up, and your abdomen drawing in towards your spine?

Now take a deeper breath. Is your chest rising way up, are you leaning backwards a little, and your stomach collapsing further towards your spine?

If so, you are breathing to survive. I call this a Stress Breath.


Stress Breath occurs when the brain perceives danger to its well-being.

Stress breathing also causes the brain to search for danger when none exists.

The result of warranted or unwarranted stress breathing is a cascade of events transforming the entire body into survival mode of “Fight or Flight” posture, and nervous tension.

Never Stress

Whether or not any actual danger exists, Fight or Flight posture causes the muscles of the body to tense, rounding the spine, shoulders hunched forward, chin tucked down, brain and nervous system on high alert, prepared to do battle, or run for the hills.


You are happily walking hand in hand with your four-year-old child across an intersection.

Suddenly you notice the driver of a car barreling down on you is oblivious to your presence.

Your brain instantly triggers your fight or flight instincts. The adrenal glands flood the body with the hormone, adrenaline. You suck huge amounts of air into your lungs, chest heaving upwards, heart pounding rapidly. Scooping-up your child in iron-like, powerful arms.

Arteries instantly shunting vast amounts of oxygen to your legs enabling you to sprint like a world-class athlete to safety.

Safely out of harm’s way the unhealthy person will continue stress breathing after the danger has passed.

Chest breath continues, fight or flight posture remains. Tension in the muscular system remains.

Endocrine system

Adrenal glands work overtime creating adrenaline.

The brain and nervous system is still searching for danger the chest breath indicates is present.

Later that night the stress breathing person continues to be tense, and cannot understand why sleep doesn’t come, why they seem to be on edge long after the danger has passed.

Stress breath is all they know.

They have been breathing this way since childhood.

Throughout their entire lives, no one has informed them of the disastrous effects on the health of the body of a chest breather.

Contrast those who stress breathe with a healthy, thriving, abdominal breather.


When a thriving breather is safely away from danger, realizing the stress has come and gone, adrenaline production is ceased, and muscle tension is released.

The natural curves are returned to the spine, posture erect and composed.

The head is over the shoulders, neck supple, shoulders and lower back relaxed, and the pelvis is balanced.

Breathe Right Graph

Most importantly, stress breath which uses chest muscles is supplanted with the diaphragm muscle resuming the responsibilities of natural, refreshing, energizing, peaceful breathing of the healthy, thriving person.

Thriving breathers are fortunate indeed for having somewhere along the way been taught to breathe with the diaphragm muscle located in the abdomen. Theirs is a life of health and peaceful countenance.

The stress breather, on the other hand, can’t understand why they never seem to feel good.

Sleep seems to never come. Morning finds them groggy and grumpy.

They have to guzzle two cups of coffee just to get the day started.

Their neck, shoulders, and back ache all day.

It seems like every cell of their body is crying out for help, and they just can’t seem to get a break.

The break will come when they learn the value of supplying the single most important nutrient their body craves for good health.


The human body needs three nutrients for good health;

  • Food
  • Water
  • Air 

Of these three, food is the least important (I know this hurts); you can survive for many weeks without food.

The second is water; you can survive for many days without water.

That leaves air.

The single most important nutrient to the human body is air/oxygen; you can survive only minutes without oxygen.


Every one of your 7 trillion cells that make up your body requires oxygen to do their job.

Each cell that makes you, you, is like a small factory.

Each one has a job to do.


 Each cell must have a ready, steady supply of oxygen to do its job efficiently.

Cellular efficiency results in good health.

Cells animated

Learning to supply oxygen to the cells of your body is paramount to good health.

And proper breathing is the single most important training you can do for becoming healthy.


The stress breather’s break will come when they train themselves to breathe to Thrive, not merely to Survive.

Abolish the Stress Breath in favor of the Diaphragm Breath.

Join the winning side of the Controversy of Chest Breathing vs. Abdominal Breathing.


Join us in the next article when we discuss how Breathing Exercises Increase Lung Capacity creating a ready, steady supply of oxygen to the seven trillion cells of the body crying out for help.

Group of thriving people

If you have any questions or want to leave a comment please do in the box below. Also feel free to like and share on your favorite social media. Thanks!

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This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Hi Doc. Many thanks for the information. This is a very important topic and one that need to be brought to the attention of everyone! It is a shame that something so vital as our breath, something that has such a huge impact on our wellbeing, is not discussed more frequently.
    I have been an abdominal breather for many, many, years. I think it started when I was learning hatha yoga about 20 years ago.
    Recently, I have begun doing Ashtanga yoga, which is physically very demanding and intensely challenging. I am surprised that during practice they encourage chest breathing as they way to achieve more depth within any posture. I would like to hear your thoughts on this?
    Kind regards

    1. Hi Andrew,
      Cheers to your 20 year yoga adventure. The Continental Indian Culture has been breathing (pranayamas) and adopting body postures (asanas) for centuries. I venture to say there exists thousands of methods to choose from. Ashtanga is a fairly aggressive style of creating union, often employing ultra challenging asanas which increase the physical stress levels to the body. Pumping more blood/prana to the parts of the body in need will require stress/chest breathing. This is perfectly healthy, normal, and even beneficial under these conditions. The idea is to return to the resting, peaceful abdominal breath once the stress has passed.

      1. Thanks Doc. With practice, it is becoming easier to breathe in a more relaxed manner even when under the stress of an intensive posture. I guess my body is learning to relax and even enjoy the experiences of intense yoga as I know it is beneficial for me in the long run. many thanks for your wisdom.

        1. Hiya Andrew, It is my honor and pleasure to be of service. Especially to one who is well on his Voyage to Good Health. Peace Be With You, Doc

  2. Thanks Doc, alot of times I find myself breathing to survive instead of thriving. Very thankful for finding this site, Hope to learn a lot about breathing to thrive.

    1. It is my genuine pleasure Donald. I’ve been doing this a long time, I know that if you stay with it improvements will happen.

  3. Hi Doc,
    Thanks for this very informative post.
    I was never aware of the chest and abdominal breathing until a couple of years ago.
    While working out in the gym I got talking to a man from Bulgaria.
    He was full of a lot of great facts and information.
    One of the things he talked about was training yourself to breath using your abdomen instead of your chest as you will be more relaxed and able to achieve more in your workouts.
    After reading your post, It’s clear to see that’s exactly what each of us should be doing to live a healthier and more balanced life.
    best wishes,

    1. Thanks Michael, That’s right you will achieve a much greater level of relaxation both in and out of the gym. Also glad to know I’m explaining the concept in a way me readers understand its basic importance.

  4. Breathing to Thrive? This is the first time I am hearing of the term. I take breathing for granted since it is barely noticeable. However, I have realized that my heartbeat is faster when I sense danger and it contributes to deeper breathing to live. I certainly will keep an eye on breathing with the stomach and not heaving with the chest.

    1. Please do and let me know if you’ve noticed a difference after making the change too.

  5. hi Doc

    very interesting article about breathing using the chest or belly, just one question, when we breath in, our stomach is supposed to go in or bugle out?
    I used to do body building exercise and was told when we inhale, make sure the stomach did not go in and vice versa.

    1. Yes, think of it like you are filling your belly with air. So when you inhale your belly will get bigger. And let me know what you think after a little more practice too.

  6. Hi Doc, Thank you these helpful information. I’m a singer and when I sing, my teachers or friends would tell me to correct my breathing, or I will hurt my vocal cords. I just realized, few months ago, that I have been breathing by chest and not with my belly. Frankly I didn’t know the difference and the harm.
    Thank you so much for sharing

    1. I would be there are much more people that breathe with their chest than they do their bellies. It’s a simple step to miss, no one ever thinks about it because it’s an involuntary action. Glad you have found my post helpful and hope it improves your singing ten fold! (:

      Thanks Rachel

  7. Hi Doc!
    Thanks so much for the info 😮 I can’t believe I’ve never learned this! This definitely explains a lot.

    1. You are welcome! Also, let me know how it’s working out for you after some practice.


  8. Dear Doc

    Thank you very much for your fantastic website. It is amazing that you show people where to start and what steps to make towards their healthy living and perfect body. I hope more people will know about your website and follow your guidance.
    Kind regards,

    1. Thanks you Andrey
      I hope so too! There’s really not much to it once you know it and people can watch their life improve on a daily basis. It becomes an interesting hobby for many and a good hobby to be into at that.

      All the best!


  9. Hello doc! I don’t know the self health exam but I do love the health routine, When i born my last daughter i had a 10 days comatose it’s gladly that i had only 10 days in the bed sleeping. And now i do love healthy eating habit as i can.

    1. Hello Melvie, thank you for your kind comments. It sounds to me like you are appreciating life. Congratulations on overcoming the adversities that came your way. Breathe to Thrive and Feel Alive. All the best to you and your family, Doc

  10. Very interesting Doc. Never considered that how I breathe would have a profound effect on my health and well being. I need to check out your other articles to learn more about this. I am all about being healthy. Thanks for sharing this important info. Tom

    1. The most important part! I’m glad you’re enjoying the article. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask Tom. Also, I would love to hear about your progress with the activities as you improve your health.

      Cheers to healthy living!


  11. Hi Doctor, thank you very much for a detailed and logical explanation about breathing.

    1. Hi Joel, thank you for the kind comment. I am pleased you are taking the time out of your busy schedule and putting it into your voyage to good health. The Golden Voyage to good health begins with Breathing to Thrive. With consistent dedication, it won’t be long until you can make your own wind and sail on to great health. Keep in touch, Doc

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