The Connection Between Breathwork, Physical Activity, and Weight Management
Despite a rising interest in fitness and exercise, it has been recorded that around half of all adults (approximately 40%) in the US struggle with obesity. This is worrisome given that obesity can increase the risk of many serious conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and more. As such, there is no denying that many have a deep desire to achieve a better weight. Case in point, a survey on Study Finds shared that 65% of Americans want to lose weight. However, not everyone has the capacity to go to extreme lengths for the sake of weight improvement. Fortunately, in recent years, studies have found that employing the less physically taxing practice of breathwork can be effective in managing weight and even improving physical activity.
What is breathwork?
Breathwork is a simple exercise that involves regulating your breath. It’s important to remember that our breathing habits determine how much oxygen our brain receives. That said, a steady breathing rhythm lowers heart rate and improves blood circulation. Simply by focusing on it, a proper breathing technique can become a powerful wellness practice. Deep breathing is useful in decreasing stress as a lowering pulse rate brings a sense of calm to the body. Conversely, rapid breathing limits the amount of oxygen in circulation. This triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response. Feelings of anger, fear, and irritation usually arise. Poor breathing technique also impacts your ability to think clearly and execute proper physical exertions since breath influences the body's responses.
Benefits of breathwork for better weight management So how does something as effortless as breathing contribute to weight loss? Our weight is not only determined by the food that we eat but also by the internal workings of our bodies. By concentrating on oxygen intake, the body’s internal processes are stabilized. Here are the ways in which breathwork can help you avoid certain causes of weight gain:
Studies from Endocrine Web state that around 11% of all weight gain is a result of indulging your cravings outside of normal hunger. While most people may be able to resist their cravings, those with conditions like obesity may be biologically wired towards these impulses, leading to the consumption of larger food portions which can impact weight. Unfortunately, this only feeds into their brain’s reward center, which drives them to eat more. As such, some people may need to rely on medical weight loss solutions, such as weight loss medications, to help suppress their appetite. While results vary, these solutions can lead to as much as a 15% weight reduction. However, even with the medicine, it’s still essential that you stay consistent with fulfilling healthier habits. Thankfully, breathing exercises, particularly slow breathing, have been found to not only curb cravings but also help you reframe your attitude. By slowing your breathing, you can achieve a state of mindfulness that allows you to determine your needs from your wants. Slower breathing can also help delay hunger pangs and give you time to make the right choice. Ultimately, this ensures that your cravings don't get the better of you and foster a more positive mindset toward weight loss.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, can also be triggered by a lack of oxygen. A study states that breathing directly impacts our mood and behavior. It also shapes the way we view the world. When stressed, you are more likely to crave food high in sugar, salt, and fat because your brain assumes that you need the energy to address your stressor. On the flip side, when faced with tough situations, it has been proven that breathing exercises are highly effective for stress reduction since the introduction of more oxygen into the body has a calming effect. This allows you to compose yourself and prevent stress eating. Furthermore, it inhibits the release of stress hormones like the aforementioned cortisol and instead can help release happy hormones like endorphins. This can help increase feelings of satisfaction, which eliminate the need to eat for relief.
By efficiently filling your lungs with air, you are reinforcing your body’s core. A stronger core means a faster metabolism. Additionally, better core strength means a heightened capacity for exercising. It is well documented that those who pair a balanced diet with regular exercise can achieve and sustain an ideal body weight in comparison to those who only practice one approach. For those who experience body pain, pairing breathwork with an abdominal massage can even improve the core strength and the body's ability to burn fat and sustain more demanding weight management exercises. An example of this is the Pso-rite which is an ideal aid for full body massages and when combined with proper breathwork, it can aid in healthy weight loss.
Easy breathwork exercises
Breathwork is an easy practice to follow, and listed below are some exercises that you can begin with:
Breathing Through Alternate Nostrils
Breathing through the nose instead of the mouth has been linked to better food digestion. This can be done by holding down one nostril and taking deep breaths, then swapping and using the other nostril to do the same. With this exercise, you can increase your breathing focus.
Recommended as “a treatment for obesity”, Senobi is breathwork that employs the use of the entire body. Stand upright, put one foot in front of the other, and slowly breathe in while simultaneously stretching your arms over the head. Exhale for 7 seconds while putting the arms down, and repeat for at least 2 minutes.
Pursed Lip Breathing
This method is also helpful for those who suffer from asthma. Simply control your breathwork by slowing it down and pursing your lips. Constricting the airflow makes your breathing intentional and encourages deeper breathing.