Yawning While Exercising

by Neil Anderson

Yeah, we see you over there.  Yawning.  Acting all bored.  Like today's workout is simply a breeze and you can't understand why the rest of us are hacking and puking and gasping for air.  What...these workouts not TOUGH enough for you???

HA!  Just messin with you.

We all do it.  Yawn, that is.  Especially during exercise.  

No one really knows why, but exercise and other stressful situations can induce yawning attacks.  Professional runners, bikers, even swimmers have been known to stop and even pull out of events due to excessive yawning attacks.  Just couldn't go on due to too much yawning.  Can you imagine?  

One of the things we do know about yawning is that it isn't due to your body not getting enough oxygen.  That is an old wives tale.  It used to be thought that yawning was your body's way of opening unused air sacks deep within the lungs, which were supposedly closed due to periods of inactivity.  Yawning was supposed to expand your chest cavity making it possible to take in more air and open these sacks.  The problem with this logic is that researchers found that yawning didn't improve physical capacity (a marker of improved oxygenation) after 1, or several yawns.  They also learned that even while a patient was confined to breathing 100% oxygen - they still yawned!  

So, why do we do it?  Some argue that it is due to our natural impulse to improve posture and stretch muscles in our chest cavities.  Some say it is our way of relieving tension in our jaw and neck.  Some think it is a long since abandoned human manifestation of dominance.  That's why hippos, lions and apes are thought to do it.  Some say the opposite.  They say that humans may yawn as a sign of submission.  It is a behavior observed in dogs.  No one really has the answer to why we yawn.  

What we do know is that excessive yawning can be a sign of very serious health problems (sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, heart defect).  You should see your doc if you yawn more than 3x per minute for several hours in a row for several days in a row. 

The other thing we know is that people have more yawning attacks when they are over-stressed, over-stimulated and/or over-tired.  I would argue that if you don't become one, or ALL THREE of these things before, during or after a GPP workout - you aren't human.  In that case, these workouts are too simple for you and you probably ARE bored.  If this is, or ever becomes case, then take it from us - you are fit enough.  You may stop now.