Have your ever tried losing weight before? There may be a simple way to lose weight and guess what? It has nothing to with eating or food. It involves taking advantage of something you do 12 to 20 times a minute and you don’t even notice it – breathing. Breathing is essential to life and living well and deep breathing can help you lose weight.
We can survive 4 to 6 weeks without food, 3 to 4 days without water, but only 3 or 4 minutes without oxygen. What does that tell us? It says we need an ongoing supply of oxygen. Food supplies calories. Calories can be stored in the body in the form of glycogen and fat. We store water in our tissues. Water comprises 60% of the body providing us with a limited reservoir that we can tap into in emergencies.
But, we have no way to store oxygen. And, if we can store it, what happens to any excess amount of oxygen we may have inhaled? That’s what makes oxygen so unique – we need a constant flow of it – and have to use it immediately.
We can take advantage of that constant need for oxygen. Since the body cannot store oxygen it has no choice but to use oxygen immediately. If there is more than enough oxygen to meet normal physiologic needs then any additional oxygen can be use to combust fat and burn calories.
We obtain oxygen through the air we breathe. Breathing is something we take for granted. In fact, we barely noticed that we do breathe (now that I mentioned it you’re probably more aware of your breathing). How we breathe, though, can affect our health. Most of us get through the day taking short shallow breaths depriving our bodies of oxyen. More oxygen can be deilvered to our tissues through slow deep breathing.
We only use about 20% to 25% of our available lung capacity when we take short shallow breaths. By taking deeper breaths through use of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles more oxygen can be delivered to more of the lungs. More oxygen can also be absorbed by the lungs and delivered to the blood by breathing slowly as this gives the lungs more time to extract oxygen from the air. That’s how deep slow breathing delivers more oxygen to the blood to be transported throughout the body.
Not only that, but deep slow breathing enables the body to clear more carbon dioxide and other toxins/wastes from the body when we exhale.
How You Can Start Losing Weight with Deep Breathing
Deep slow breathing has been touted to improve losing weight. Part of this comes from the burning of more calories by activating the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. But, better oxygen delivery also speeds metabolism. Since oxygen cannot be stored, it has to be put to use once it enters the body. Once all the tissues have an adequate supply of oxygen it’s thought that any remaining oxygen combusts fat breaking it down into energy, water, and carbon dioxide.
In one reported study deep breathing was found to raise metabolism 4-fold above baseline and burn 140% more calories than stationary cycling, but I have been unable to find that study. I did find this study, though, from Japan linking weight loss to deep breathing. In fact, the researchers of this study consider deep breathing as the first line treatment of obesity.
Plus, in this publication from the American Heart Association obese teens lost weight with yoga and deep breathing.
Deep breathing is a relaxation technique. Relaxation lowers cortisol, the stress hormone. In many, cortisol stimulates insulin release which tells the body to store sugar as fat. This may be another mechanism by which deep breathing leads to weight loss – through the lowering of cortisol.
In theory this all makes sense and observationally it seems like deep breathing may aid weight loss as we don’t see many overweight yoga instructors and others who practice deep breathing. Plus, there are several reports of individuals losing significant weight after practicing deep breathing.
Keep in mind, too, that the main purpose of aerobic exercise is to deliver more oxygen to the body. What happens as you exercise? Your breathing becomes deeper. You need oxygen to burn fat.
Health Benefits of Deep Breathing
Beyond its weight loss benefits, deep breathing provides many other invaluable health benefits which include the following:
- lowers blood pressure
- slows heart rate
- improves mental clarity
- reduces anxiety
- reduces stress
- reduces pain (stimulate endorphins)
- improve posture
- improve energy/stamina
- enhance immune function