Using Slow-Paced Breathing to Foster Endurance, Well-Being, and Sleep Quality in Athletes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Author: Uirassu Borges1,2, Babett Lobinger1, Florian Javelle3, Matthew Watson2, Emma Mosley4, Sylvain Laborde1,5
1 Department of Performance Psychology, Institute of Psychology, German Sport University Cologne, Cologne, Germany.
2 Department of Social and Health Psychology, Institute of Psychology, German Sport University Cologne, Cologne, Germany.
3 Department for Molecular and Cellular Sports Medicine, Institute for Cardiovascular Research and Sports Medicine, German Sport University Cologne, Cologne, Germany.
4 Department of Sport Science and Performance, Solent University, Southampton, United Kingdom.
5 UFR STAPS, Université de Caen Normandie, Caen, France.
Conference/Journal: Front Psychol
Date published: 2021 May 13
Other: Volume ID: 12 , Pages: 624655 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.624655. , Word Count: 180

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been causing major disruptions in the sporting world. Negative physiological and psychological effects on athletes have been reported, such as respiratory issues and increased stress. Therefore, it is timely to support this population by presenting cost-effective and accessible intervention techniques to reduce this impact. Slow-paced breathing (SPB) has the potential to counteract many of the detrimental effects of COVID-19 that can directly affect sports performance. In this article, we present and justify the use of SPB in athletes by focusing on three key outcomes, namely aerobic endurance performance, emotional well-being, and sleep quality. We examine the physiological mechanisms that underpin these three outcomes and review literature showing that SPB can activate anti-inflammatory pathways, increase lung capacity and, in turn, improve aerobic endurance, emotional well-being, and sleep quality. We conclude that interventions using SPB can have preventive and rehabilitative properties for athletes. Future studies should empirically test the potential of SPB to help this specific population.

Keywords: HRV; biofeedback; cardiac vagal activity; cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway; cytokine storm; lung inflammation; mental health.

PMID: 34054642 PMCID: PMC8155704 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.624655