Just taking a breath could be an important first step on a weight loss journey. New research shows that regularly practicing breathing exercises may be linked to increased weight loss and reduced body fat.
The latest research explores how the body oxidizes fat via breathing. Oxidization is a normal process in the body, that can help fight pathogens, and reduce the risk of infections. When there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants within the body, it’s referred to as oxidative stress, and can be harmful to the body. In one study, the researchers chose to follow the path of these atoms when leaving the body. The results suggest that the lungs are the main excretory organ for weight loss, with the H20 produced by oxidation leaving the body in urine, feces, breath and other bodily fluids. Breathing in an adequate amount of oxygen supports the body as it carries out the essential function of removing waste and helping maintain oxidative balance, which supports how efficiently the body functions. The results of the study show that in order for 10kg of fat to be oxidized, 29kg of oxygen must be inhaled.
“None of this biochemistry is new,” say the authors, “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.”
Other studies have found that breathing exercises may also help reduce hunger and appetite as well as decrease stress levels. Decreasing all these factors in turn helps support weight loss. One study found that 45 minutes of deep breathing (specifically that tied to the yoga style Bhramari pranayama as well as OM chanting), 3 times a week significantly reduced body weight and body mass index (BMI), compared with a control group.
All this also supports other findings that show that maintaining some hormones within certain levels (avoiding chronically high levels of cortisol, for example) can help manage weight loss. Deep breathing can help decrease stress- that helps keep our fight or flight reflex at bay, which is what causes hormones that can counteract weight loss to surge. Deep breathing can also relax tense muscles and one small study also found that those that took deeper breaths experienced a higher resting metabolic rate, which aids in digestion.
How we breathe makes a difference
Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, is where you take deep breaths to fill both your lungs and allow your stomach to rise. It can feel unnatural at first, but breathing deeply provides the body with essential oxygen that can’t be obtained with shallow breaths. Shallow breathing also promotes tension and anxiety, which can maintain stress hormones at higher levels that negatively impact weight loss, as when we are in a chronically angry state.
The Cleveland Clinic provided this guide on how to breathe through the diaphragm:
Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed, with your knees bent and your head supported. You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.
Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips (see “Pursed Lip Breathing Technique“). The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.
When you first learn the diaphragmatic breathing technique, it may be easier for you to follow the instructions lying down, as shown above. As you gain more practice, you can try the diaphragmatic breathing technique while sitting in a chair.
We all need to breathe to live- why not try this technique to better provide our body the oxygen it needs while also promoting weight loss? Try to take a few deep breaths today!