Breathing exercises have been used to promote health in Eastern cultures for thousands of years (1).

In recent years, several studies have found that breathing exercises may help reduce stress levels and improve attention and emotional well-being (2, 3).

What’s more, some proponents of this popular practice even claim that adding breathing exercises to your routine may aid weight loss and boost fat burning.

This article takes a look at some of the science behind breathing exercises to determine whether they work for weight loss.

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Breathing exercises are a simple practice that involves minimizing external distractions and paying closer attention to your breathing.

Studies show that breathing exercises may be associated with several potential health benefits, including decreased anxiety and improved attention levels and sleep quality (2, 4, 5).

There are numerous types of breathing exercises, including:

  • Deep breathing. This form of breathing exercise involves taking a deep breath, holding it for a few seconds, and then releasing it slowly.
  • Alternate nostril breathing. With this exercise, you practice inhaling and exhaling through alternating nostrils by using your fingers to close one side at a time.
  • Pursed lip breathing. This type of breathing practice involves inhaling through your nostrils and exhaling slowly through pursed lips.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing. Also known as belly breathing, this variation requires you to lie down, place your hands on your upper chest and rib cage, and exhale through pursed lips as you tighten your stomach muscles.
  • Senobi. This Japanese style of deep breathing involves leaning back, stretching your arms overhead, and inhaling and exhaling slowly several times.

Although each style has slight variations in terms of how it’s practiced, all forms are used to help promote relaxation and relieve stress by bringing your focus to the present moment.


There are several styles and variations of breathing exercises, each of which involves paying close attention to your breathing to reduce stress and promote relaxation.

Several studies have found that practicing breathing exercises may promote weight loss and decrease body fat.

One study in 40 women noted that practicing Senobi increased both the excretion of hormones through the urine and sympathetic nerve activity, which is responsible for your body’s “fight or flight” response (6).

What’s more, participants with obesity who repeated the exercise regularly for 1 month experienced a significant reduction in body fat (6).

In another small study in 38 people, those who participated in a diaphragmatic breathing exercise experienced a higher resting metabolic rate, which may lead to increased weight loss (7).

Additionally, an 8-week study showed that practicing breathing exercises for 45 minutes daily 3 times per week significantly reduced body weight and body mass index (BMI), compared with a control group (8).


Some studies show that regularly practicing breathing exercises may support weight loss and fat loss.

Some research has found that practicing breathing exercises may reduce feelings of hunger, which may help decrease food intake and promote weight loss.

A study in 60 people showed that performing a breathing exercise, which involved holding their breath for 3–4 seconds while contracting their stomach muscles, decreased feelings of hunger on an empty stomach (9).

Similarly, a small study observed that practicing slow-paced breathing for 10 minutes significantly reduced hunger in 65 women (10).

Another study in 68 people evaluated the effects of practicing supervised yoga for 45 minutes twice daily for 15 days, which included 33 minutes of breathing exercises per session (11).

Participants not only experienced a significant reduction in BMI and belly fat but also increased levels of leptin, which is the hormone responsible for stimulating feelings of fullness (11, 12).


Studies show that breathing exercises may decrease feelings of hunger and increase leptin, the hormone that regulates feelings of fullness.

Breathing exercises can be an effective way to reduce stress levels.

In fact, multiple studies show that breathing exercises can help alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression (13, 14, 15).

Increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, may be tied to a higher risk of weight gain and obesity (16, 17, 18).

What’s more, higher levels of cortisol may be associated with increased food cravings and contribute to emotional eating (19, 20).

While more research is needed, this suggests that practicing stress-reducing activities, such as breathing exercises, may help prevent overeating and promote weight loss.


Breathing exercises can decrease stress levels, which otherwise may contribute to weight gain, food cravings, and emotional eating.

Adding breathing exercises to your daily routine doesn’t have to be tedious or time-consuming.

Start by setting aside a few minutes each day to practice, ideally three to four times per day.

You can pick whatever style or variation works for you, whether it’s alternate nostril breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, or simply deep breathing.

Be sure to sit or stand in a comfortable position and minimize any external distractions so that you can fully focus.

Practice your choice of breathing exercise for a few minutes and slowly increase the duration of your sessions as you start to feel more comfortable.

Once you find what works for you, you can also incorporate poses, mantras, or other mindfulness exercises into your practice, such as yoga or meditation.


To get started with breathing exercises, pick a type that works for you and set aside time to practice each day. You can also increase your duration slowly and incorporate poses, mantras, or mindfulness activities into your practice.

Breathing exercises are a common practice that involves paying closer attention to your breath to promote relaxation.

Promising research shows that regularly practicing breathing exercises may be linked to increased weight loss and reduced body fat.

Plus, some studies have found that breathing exercises may reduce hunger and appetite and decrease stress levels, which may also help support weight loss.

For best results, be sure to combine breathing exercises with a well-rounded diet and other healthy habits, including regular physical activity and practices like yoga or meditation.