How to Use Breathing Exercises to Help You Lose Weight and Stay Calm
Losing weight is as easy as... breathing? Yes, it's true, though you have to commit to the type of breathing exercise that works to calm the sympathetic nervous system, lower the stress hormone cortisol, and help the body shed fat. Studies have shown breathing exercises work to promote weight loss and help you feel calm and energized. So if you want to trade in your morning workout for breathing, or better yet, add on ten minutes of breathing a day, there is plenty of scientific evidence that reveals breathing can be an effective weight-loss tool.
Breathing lowers cortisol which helps the body lose weight or burn fat
Deep breathing exercises lowers cortisol, the stress hormone in the body, which in turn can help you lose weight. Cortisol is a "fight or flight" response to a stressor and tells the sympathetic nervous system to hold onto fat (for the battle or the journey) so when cortisol goes up, you hold onto calories and when it goes down, your body lets go, allowing you to burn fuel to support your activity. Studies have shown a connection between cortisol levels in the body and obesity, metabolic syndrome, and weight gain. Breathing exercises have been proven to help lower cortisol.
In one study, called "The role of deep breathing on stress," 38 university students aged 18 to 28 were divided into two groups, to see if breathing intervention helps improve mood and reduce stress. One group practiced deep breathing exercises, for a total of 10 treatments, while the others just sat in a quiet room without doing the breathing exercises. Among those who learned and practiced the breathing exercises, their biological profile of stress had improved as measured by heart rate and salivary cortisol levels which both went down.
Breathing brings oxygen to cells and releases CO2, the "exhaust" of fat burning
Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen in your body and this extra oxygen helps you burn extra fat, according to a study. Breathing deeply also helps to improve blood circulation and allows the body to exhale CO2, or the output when you break apart carbon for fuel, which is essentially how fat gets burned. Think of it as the exhaust fumes from your engine.
Belly breathing can even help the process, according to experts, who recommend trying different types of breathing exercises to see which one works for you.
Researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia reported in a paper that
"when weight is lost, the majority of it is breathed out as carbon dioxide," which was news to many people who believed that fat gets lost through energy or heat, according to Andrew Brown and Ruben Meerman, the professors who wrote the report, published in BMJ.
There is a widespread misconception about how weight is lost, among physicians, dietitians, and personal trainers, they wrote. "Most believed that fat is converted to energy or heat, which violates the law of conservation of mass,” they wrote. In fact, "the majority of weight loss occurs via breathing."
“None of this biochemistry is new,” the professors wrote, “but for unknown reasons, it seems nobody has thought of performing these calculations before. The quantities make perfect sense but we were surprised by the numbers that popped out.”
The lungs are the main excretory organ for weight loss, they explained. On average, a person weighing 154 pounds will exhale approximately 200 ml of CO2 in 12 breaths per minute. Each breath contains 33 mg of CO2, with 8.9 mg comprised of carbon. So if you take 17,280 breaths over the course of the day you will expel 200 grams or more of carbon, with roughly a third of this weight loss occurring during 8 hours of sleep, according to Medical News Today. By consuming food, you replace that energy, so losing weight is simply an equation of putting "less back in by eating than you’ve exhaled by breathing,” according to the authors.
Try these 5 different forms of breathing for the best fat burning results
There are different ways to try breathing to help your body bring oxygen to the cells, calm your stress and effectively expel CO2 and promote weight loss.
Box Breathing. This is also called Square Breathing. It uses counting to continually distract the mind and relax the brain and allow your breath to fully inhale and exhale. Sit in a chair and breathe in slowly for 5 counts. They hold your breath for 5 counts, then exhale for 5 counts or slightly more (5.5 or 6 counts) to get all the air out of your lungs. Then hold your breath for 5 counts and repeat.
Deep Breathing. Here you simply slow down the breath and don't count. Allow the lungs to fully fill up with air, even pushing your stomach out to make as big a cavity for air as you can, then exhale fully back to deflate the lungs and pull the abdomen in as you do. By slowing down your breathing you will relax and feel calmer.
Alternate Nostril Breathing. Yoga teachers love this because it makes you realize that you're often breathing with your mouth, and by using your nose you slow down the breath and filter it. Use your fingers to press close one nostril, then breathe several times and switch sides. With this exercise, you practice inhaling and exhaling through alternating nostrils by using your fingers to close one side at a time.
Belly Breathing or Diaphragm Breathing. This requires you to fully engage the stomach, abdominal muscles, and diaphragm when breathingLie down on the floor or a matt and place hands on your chest or middle torso and exhale as deeply as you can, feeling your hands fall, then inhale and watch hands rise with your chest. If you want to tighten your stomach muscles you can but the most important part of this is the breathing, not the toning.
Senobi Breathing. To practice, this Japanese style of breathing, stand in an open space and breathe in while leaning back and stretching arms overhead, then hold your breath and lower your arms back down as you exhale. This helps the lungs feel fully stretched to get the breath deep into the air passages and is envigorating. Use it when you need to focus.
Yoga and Om Chanting Help Lung Function and Weight Loss.
In a study that looked at whether OM changing in yoga could help individuals lose weight or have healthier lung function, one study found that it worked.
The study, "Effect of Bhramari pranayama and OM chanting on pulmonary function in healthy individuals: A prospective randomized control trial" found that when study subjects were asked to practice OM chanting for 10 minutes a day (5 minutes, twice a day, six days a week for two weeks, it helped lung function and they lost weight.
To help burn more calories at rest, use diaphragm breathing
Yet another study found that specific breathing exercises helped improve resting metabolic rate – or the total number of calories burned when your body is completely at rest – and maximal oxygen uptake. So using diaphragm breathing exercises can help improve VO2 max or the amount of oxygen your muscles can use when exerting during bouts of intense training or competition.
Diaphragm breathing is actively using your stomach muscles, abdominal cavity, and actively pulling the diaphragm down with each inward breath to draw more oxygen into the lungs, and then forcibly exhaling all the air out of the lungs by squeezing every last drop of volume out. "Diaphragm breathing exercise and feedback breathing exercise could influence VO2max," the study found. "Diaphragm breathing exercise could influence Resting Metabolic Rate, but feedback breathing exercise could not. It is suggested that the results can be useful in clinical applications.'
Bottom Line: To burn more calories and lose fat, use specific breathing exercises
If weight loss is a goal, you may want to try adding breathing exercises into your daily routine, especially those that force air into the lungs, then exhale fully, such as what's known as "Diaphragm Breathing. Studies have proven that fat burning results in the exhalation of CO2.
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