It all started when a 2017 video about a Japanese breathing technique called Senobi exploded on the internet. According to the video, 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.
An interesting find is that breathing techniques, such as those also used for stress relief, may 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.