Parker Stinson wore a nasal strip while winning the Capitol 10,000

If you saw elite runner Parker Stinson cross the finish line at the recent Statesman Capitol 10,000, you may have noticed he was wearing one of those nasal strips that help open up the nasal passages. Stinson’s not alone. Quite a few elite runners wear them, especially while racing. So what’s the deal? Don’t most people breathe through their mouths while exercising?

Not necessarily. In fact growing research tells us that nasal breathing might be the way to go for endurance athletes. A small study in the International Journal of Kinesiology and Sports Science compared 10 male and female runners using nasal-only breathing for six months while running. In order to compare their maximum oxygen uptake and other exercise metrics like oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, the runners were tested once with nasal breathing, and then with mouth breathing.

While the runners demonstrated the same overall oxygenation (VO2Max) during nasal breathing as they did with mouth breathing, they did exhibit one possibly significant advantage. Their respiratory rate—breaths per minute— was lower with nasal breathing.

So what does that mean? It means that they did not have to work as hard to get the same amount of oxygen. The researchers concluded that the lower breath rate allowed more time for oxygen to get into the bloodstream.

In an article in US News and World Report, George Dallam, who headed up the study, stated that, “You’re doing less work of breathing to get the same oxygenation.” Dallam is a professor in the School of Health Sciences and Human Movement at Colorado State University  and the former National Teams coach for the USA Triathlon team.

Dallam also points out that nasal breathing takes a bit of getting used to—it focuses more on the diaphragm than the chest. If you want to try it, start gradually introducing it on your easy run days before progressing to harder workouts with nasal breathing. Expect to take up to six months to really get used to it.

Upcoming Races: Saturday, May 11, Texas Switchback Trail Race 26.2M, 13.1M, 10K, 5K and trail runs at Flat Creek Crossing Ranch in Johnson City. Staggered race start from 6:00-10:00 a.m.  Sunday, May 12, the Jackalope Run 5K, 7:00 a.m. at Lehman High School in Kyle.