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Breathing Exercises For Weight Loss - Do They Really Work?

Deep breathing exercises have been part of traditional medicine for thousands of years. Both yoga and meditation are famously centered around breathing techniques said to offer anything from specific health benefits to a spiritual awakening. So how come we're only now discussing the proposed ability of deep breathing to aid in weight loss?
Truth be told, an accumulation of factors ranging from viral deep breathing videos to actual new research urged us to further investigate this topic, and here’s what we found. Let’s look into all of these factors and provide you with a realistic picture of what breathing exercises can or cannot do to help you burn fat.

Is deep breathing for weight loss a thing?

Breathing Exercises For Weight Loss man and woman meditating under a tree

It all started when a 2017 video about a Japanese breathing technique called Senobi exploded on the internet. According to the video, which you can view HERE, all you have to do is lean back and inhale for 3 seconds and exhale for 7 seconds over the span of 2 minutes every day. The deep breathing technique promised to help lose weight in the waist, speed up metabolism, and strengthen the abs, even with no added diet changes or exercises. But the real question is, does it really work?

The same video credits a 2014 study from the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggesting that this deep breathing exercise can burn as much as ½ pound (225 g) of fat in a day. The technique is backed by the Japanese actor Miki Ryosuke, who swears that the technique made him lose 30 pounds (13.6 kg) and 5 inches (12.7 cm) off his waist in a matter of weeks.

How deep breathing aids in weight loss

Contemporary research is a bit more reserved but still hopeful. An interesting find is that other breathing techniques, such as those also used for stress relief, may also have the ability to burn fat.

Some of these other breathing exercises are:

  • Belly breathing - deep breathing through the belly that engages the diaphragm in addition to the chest muscles.
  • Alternate nostril breathing - a yogi breathing technique that involves alternating between the nostrils as you inhale and exhale.
  • Pursed lip breathing - a breathing exercise where you inhale through your nostrils and exhale slowly while also pursing your lips.

Current research suggests that deep breathing techniques may either directly or indirectly aid in weight loss.

1. Several research articles state that breathing exercises promote fat burning.

One Japanese study suggests that women suffering from obesity who practiced Senobi regularly for 30 days lost a significant amount of body fat. A study that looked into belly breathing, on the other hand, pointed out that practicing this breathing exercise can increase one’s resting metabolic rate, which, in turn, can boost weight loss.

Breathing Exercises For Weight Loss woman stepping on a scale

Why do these effects occur? Researchers from the University of New South Wales in Australia say they know the answer.

According to Professor Andrew Brown and Ruben Meerman, deep breathing boosts weight loss on a molecular level. Deep breathing speeds up the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs. Enriching the blood with oxygen helps speed up the process of breaking down fats called triglycerides in the body through a process called oxidation.

Moreover, when triglycerides are broken down, they are converted into primarily carbon dioxide (CO2) and less so into water, which makes your lungs the main organ for weight loss. Increasing your breathing intensity through exercise, sleep, and - you guessed it - breathing exercises while also avoiding overeating can all help you see weight loss results.

2. Deep breathing reduces your appetite and hunger.

Breathing Exercises For Weight Loss woman eating chips on the couch
A big part of unwanted weight gain is food cravings and excessive hunger. It’s not always an issue, but when it is present, it’s difficult to deal with. There is research suggesting that breathing exercises can reduce such cravings and prevent overeating. For example, a research article in 60 participants suggested that a specific breathing exercise done on an empty stomach can reduce hunger. The exercise involved holding the breath for 3-4 seconds and simultaneously sucking in the belly by contracting the stomach muscles.
Similar effects were also observed for slow breathing for 10 minutes or even for 45 minutes of yoga that included 33 minutes of breathing twice a day for two weeks. In this last study, participants observed not only weight loss and belly fat reduction, but also a spike in the levels of leptin - a hormone that signals to the body that you’re full.

3. Promotes healthy sleep and reduces stress.

Breathing Exercises For Weight Loss smiling man meditating on the beach
Stress and unhealthy sleep patterns are both huge contributors to excessive weight gain. Increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol are suggested to increase food cravings, emotional eating, and weight gain.
Likewise, sleep problems can increase the risk of obesity. “In adults, sleeping four hours a night, compared with 10 hours a night, appears to increase hunger and appetite — in particular for calorie-dense foods high in carbohydrates,” said Katherine Zeratsky, a licensed dietitian. Since breathing techniques are well known to reduce one’s stress levels and improve sleep, they may indirectly promote weight loss as well.

How to practice deep breathing for weight loss

Breathing Exercises For Weight Loss woman doing breathing exercises
The beauty of breathing exercises is that they don’t require much time or special equipment. Anyone can start practicing these breathing techniques and experience their benefits right away. So where do you start? We have a wide selection of breathing techniques for you to try, complete with step-by-step instructions and extra tips and suggestions here:

For best results, we recommend practicing deep breathing daily, ideally a few times a day. This is easy, as you only need a couple of minutes per session. First and foremost, find a breathing exercise that specifically works for you and learn to practice it properly. Over time, you will be able to increase the length of the sessions.

And last but certainly not least, please don't abandon a healthy diet and exercise routine in favor of breathing exercises. You're guaranteed to get better and more lasting results if you combine several types of weight-loss tactics.

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