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Does a Deviated Septum Affect Running Performance?

When running, it is crucial to stay on top of your breathing. Unfortunately, for those with a deviated septum, this can prove particularly difficult. So how does a deviated septum affect running and is there anything you can do to improve your performance? The good news is there are ways to make it easier.

The septum is the part of the nose that separates your nasal passages. If it is significantly bent out of shape, it can lead to noticeable breathing difficulties. This can make activities such as running much more difficult. How much it impacts on your performance will depend upon how severe the problem is.

Not only does a deviated septum make it difficult to breathe during running, but it can also affect your performance in other ways. For example, it can cause sleep issues which will affect your pace and your running ability. If you do find the condition is causing you difficulties in your ability to carry out even daily activities, seeking treatment is highly recommended.

A Deviated Septum can make running difficult, but there are ways to help.

Does a Deviated Septum Affect Running?

A deviated septum causes one or both nasal passages to become partially or fully blocked. This can lead to performance issues when running, making it especially difficult to travel long distances. You will be forced to breath through your mouth, which ultimately delivers less oxygen to the lungs.

Breathing in Unfiltered Air

The main issue with running with a deviated septum, is that it forces you to breathe through the mouth. Unlike the nose, the mouth doesn’t filter the air that you breathe in. This can lead to issues with allergies and asthma, as well as make it more difficult to breathe. Studies have even revealed mouth breathing can lead to abnormal facial and dental development.

Reduced Oxygen Intake

When you try and run with a deviated septum, you’ll notice you are losing breath easily. This is because when you are forced to breathe through the mouth, it doesn’t deliver as much oxygen to the lungs. As a result, you’ll find it even more of a struggle to breathe properly as you run.

This can cause issues for both long distance runners, even untrained runners, and sprinters alike. This will be especially difficult in shorter, harder races like a 5k that require more oxygen in a short period of time.

Sleep Issues

Believe it or not, sleep issues can cause the biggest problems when running. Having a deviated septum makes it much harder to sleep. When breathing is restricted, it can leave you tossing and turning, causing you to feel consistently tired. This makes it much harder to find the motivation and energy to run.

How to Breathe When Running with a Deviated Septum

Although it is harder to run with a deviated septum, it isn’t impossible. Some things that can help include practicing functional breathing, taking regular sips of water, and reducing the length of your runs. How much it impacts your performance will depend upon how severe your deviated septum is.

Functional Breathing Techniques

There are specific types of breathing exercises you can do to make running with a deviated septum more comfortable. With functional breathing exercises, you will learn how to breathe through the nose as you exercise.

A good tip to make it easier is to start practicing this when you are resting before transitioning to shorter runs. Take small, deep breaths in and out slowly, getting used to the sensation of breathing with a partially blocked nose.

Staying Hydrated

If you find it easier to breathe through your mouth when running with a deviated septum, it’s important to stay hydrated. Take regular sips of water to prevent the mouth from drying up, making it much easier to breathe while you exercise. Always carry a portable water bottle or two with you to keep on top of your hydration.

Running with a dry mouth is difficult, and it could potentially trigger a coughing fit, stopping you in your tracks. Gatorade, or other sports drinks, are good for keeping you hydrated as well when you run and add additional carbohydrates to help with fuel.

Try Over the Counter Products

Did you know there are over the counter products that can help your performance when you have a deviated septum? Nasal sprays and strips, alongside essential oils, can all help you to breathe a lot more clearly as you run. While they might not fix the problem, they will help to make it easier to exercise.

Pay Attention to Posture

Did you know your posture plays a role in how much oxygen gets into the lungs? How you push your feet off the ground when running, alongside the position of your shoulders, can affect your breathing and your performance.

Can a Deviated Septum Make It Hard to Breathe when Exercising?

A deviated septum can make it difficult to breathe when exercising. As the nasal passages are partially or fully blocked, you will be forced to breath through your mouth as you exercise. This can prove to be extremely difficult for runners, particularly those who run over long distances.

As you breathe in, your nose humidifies and warms the air naturally. When you breathe in through the mouth, the air is going to be much colder and drier. This in turn can cause the bronchial tubes to become inflamed or to narrow, making it even harder to breathe correctly. In some cases, runners may find they can only travel a fraction of the distance they usually cover with a deviated septum.

If you find you are losing breath easily when running, it’s going to have a detrimental impact on your performance. If you suffer with asthma or allergies, breathing in through the mouth could also exasperate the conditions. It a deviated septum is preventing you from exercising, it’s a good idea to seek treatment as soon as you can. 

So, does a deviated septum affect your running performance? The truth is it can significantly hamper your performance, but it doesn’t need to. If you are struggling, trying out the tips above may help. However, if you really want to improve your breathing, seeking proper treatment is crucial. Those with a severe deviated septum may need surgery to correct the problem.

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About the author

Jasper loves to write about fitness, running, and anything else that gets him moving outdoors. He's an avid hiker, backpacker, and climber who loves to stay fit so he can make sure he's healthy enough to enjoy his favorite hobbies. He also spends time writing about his true passions in life.