Woman doing breathing exercises for weight loss

5 Breathing Exercises for Weight Loss: Reducing Stress To Help Burn Fat

11 min read


23 Mar 2024

Things you'll learn here...

  1. Does stress cause weight gain?
  2. The benefits of deep-breathing exercises
  3. Indigenous breathing exercises
  4. 5 breathing exercises for weight loss
  5. What else can you do to lose weight?

Breathing is a natural part of the human experience. It’s life and a vital part of your daily life. You’ve been doing it pretty successfully for years without any guidance, after all.

But there are different ways of breathing—and some of them may come in handy for losing weight.

It’s not as simple as breathing in a certain way to make body fat instantly melt away (we know, we’re just as disappointed as you are)—it’s all about gaining energy and managing your stress levels.

So, what’s this got to do with weight loss? Well, stress has an impact on your health, fitness, and ability to lose weight effectively.

It might not sound like the biggest part of weight loss (and it’s not as important as eating well, getting active, and taking the right supplements). But the little things all add up—and managing your stress levels will help you reach your weight loss goals with confidence.

While a great diet and exercise routine are crucial to your success, you won’t make as much progress if you’re feeling completely frazzled or worn out.

So, let’s look at how stress can affect your physical and mental health, why it can hinder your fat-burning abilities—and some breathing exercises to make you feel happier, become healthier, and kick body fat to the curb.

Feeling relaxed? Excellent, let’s begin.

Does stress cause weight gain?

Stressed woman

There’s a strong connection between stress and putting on weight.

Studies have shown time and again that chronic stress can lead to changes in eating behaviors, which can result in weight gain and poor health.

Just think about how many times you see it in movies and on TV: A character is stressed, so they binge eat their feelings away with a tub of ice cream.

It might make for a dramatic or emotional scene on screen, but in real life, it’s not a good solution to your problems.

When we experience stress, the body releases hormones like cortisol, which can increase the appetite and cravings for high-fat and sugary foods. No wonder it’s such a common response to a tough day.

Stress can even disrupt how you use energy and store fat. So not only are you likely to eat more when stressed—but you can also feel tired and less likely to exercise—making us even more prone to gaining weight.

And once it starts, you can get caught in a vicious cycle where stress and weight gain amplify the effects of each other. 

Basically, stress triggers unhealthy and emotional eating habits, which then contribute to further weight gain and bad health, causing more stress, and so on.

That’s why it’s crucial not to use food as a coping mechanism to deal with stress or negative emotions.

Instead, you need a healthy and effective alternative for reducing stress levels, which also has a positive impact on weight-loss results.

That’s where breathing exercises can help.

Read: Manifesting weight loss: tips and tricks to help you on your journey

The benefits of deep-breathing exercises

Woman takes a deep breath

One of the main benefits of breathing exercises is that they can help alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.

By practising deep-breathing techniques, you can activate the body's relaxation response, which leads to a decrease in stress hormone production and an increase in feelings of tranquillity.

When it comes to weight loss, stress reduction plays a crucial role, particularly as chronic (i.e. long-term) stress can lead to unhealthy eating habits and weight gain.

But by adding a breathing exercise into your daily routine, you can manage and decrease stress levels, curb stress-related eating, and make healthier food choices.

It doesn’t stop with reduced body fat and stress levels either. Breathing exercises can provide plenty more benefits to your overall health and wellbeing, including…

  • Improved sleep quality
  • Reduced levels of stress hormones in the blood
  • Increased mindfulness and self-awareness
  • Enhanced mood
  • Feelings of calmness and relaxation
  • Improved immune function
  • Enhanced respiratory function
  • Reduced build-up of lactic acid in the muscles
  • Increased energy levels
  • Better emotional regulation
  • Lower heart rate and blood pressure

Indigenous breathing exercises you can try

Woman meditating

There’s a long and rich history of using breathing exercises to control emotions and stress levels.

Indigenous cultures have been practising breathwork for centuries. Why? Well, because these powerful techniques can help people improve their temperament, energy levels, weight management abilities, immunity, and blood pressure. 

As an added bonus, trying these techniques can also boost mood, improve feelings of calmness, and enhance overall wellbeing.

Here’s how breathing exercises have been added to health regimens and traditional medicine in various cultures over the years…

Yoga and Ayurveda (India)

A practice known as pranayama is an integral part of Indian yoga that focuses on breathing.

Pranayama techniques like Kapalabhati (skull-shining breath) and Anulom Vilom (alternate nostril breathing) are believed to cleanse and balance the body. This is great for weight loss, as you’re able to improve digestion, gut health, and metabolism.

They are often practised in combination with yoga asanas (postures) and meditation for a holistic approach to health.

Ayurveda, a traditional Indian system of medicine, also incorporates breathing exercises as part of its treatment process.

For weight loss, specific pranayama techniques are recommended based on a person’s body constitution (dosha) and energy balance.

Qigong (China)

Qigong is an ancient Chinese breathing practice focused on cultivating "qi" (vital energy), that emphasises mindful movement, meditation, and breathwork.

Qigong exercises include various breathing techniques, such as "Three-Circle Breathing" and "Four Gates Breathing," which are believed to strengthen the body's energy and promote balance across numerous areas of health and wellbeing.

Pilates (Germany)

Pilates was developed in the early 20th century by German physical trainer Joseph Pilates, so it’s one of the newer techniques for integrating breath control with precision of movement.

This practice involves a deep diaphragmatic breathing exercise, which helps to activate your stomach muscles and support proper alignment.

While Pilates is not solely focused on weight loss, the improved core strength and body awareness that you gain through the exercises are a great way to support your fitness goals.

Japanese practices

There are various traditional Japanese practices that incorporate a breathing exercise for better health and weight management.

One example is Senobi, a deep-breathing technique performed while stretching the body. It is said to increase metabolism, promote circulation, and enhance overall vitality.

We’ll show you how to do some Senobi breathing for yourself next, along with a few other breathing exercise techniques.

5 breathing exercises for weight loss

Group meditation and breathing

These breathing exercises are primarily used to balance energy flow, enhance vitality, and improve overall health.

While weight loss may not be the main focus of these traditional practices, they do contribute to your overall wellbeing. Breathing regularly can also positively impact your weight-management efforts.

Let’s get into it.

Box breathing

Also known as square breathing, box breathing is a simple but effective technique for managing stress, enhancing relaxation, inducing a state of calmness, and increasing mental clarity and focus.

Box breathing is famously used by Navy Seals to help them remain calm, alert, and focused under intense pressure or in difficult situations.

How to do it…

  • Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight
  • Inhale through your nose for a count of four
  • Hold your breath for a count of four
  • Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth for a count of four
  • Hold your breath for a count of four
  • Repeat this cycle for several minutes

If it helps, picture a square (or box, hence the name) and mentally follow a four-count across each side as you work your way around it, back to the beginning.

4-7-8 breathing

4-7-8 is an alternative to box breathing that uses slightly different timings (and is a bit more advanced too).

This technique is based on the ancient yogic breathing practice Pranayama (which we mentioned earlier) and is used to alleviate stress and improve sleep quality.

Like box breathing, it can also enhance relaxation, reduce anxiety, and help you control food cravings associated with stress.

How to do it…

  • Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight
  • Close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose for a count of four
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven
  • Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth for a count of eight, making a whooshing sound
  • This completes one breath. Repeat the cycle for at least four breaths
  • Gradually increase the number of cycles as you practise

If this is too difficult at first, work your way up to the longer breath holds and exhales. As you develop your lung capacity, you’ll start to feel more comfortable with the full 4-7-8.

Bhramari pranayama

Bhramari pranayama, or humming bee breath, involves creating a humming sound during your exhalations to help relieve stress and anxiety.

This technique is great for calming and quieting your racing mind, releasing mental tension, and achieving a sense of relaxation and enhanced wellbeing.

How to do it…

  • Get yourself into a comfortable seated position
  • Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths through your nose to centre yourself
  • Place your index fingers gently on your ear cartilage and partially close your ears
  • Inhale deep, and upon exhalation, gently press the ear cartilage to create a humming sound
  • Continue the humming sound as long as comfortable, then release your fingers and take a deep breath
  • Repeat the process for several rounds

You can take this exercise a step further by incorporating Shanmuki mudra. This involves using your thumbs to close your ears instead and placing the rest of your fingers across your face, with your…

  • Index fingers above your eyebrows
  • Middle fingers above your eyelids
  • Ring fingers above your upper lip
  • Little fingers below your lower lip

This is said to further bring about a state of balance and awareness while brightening and rejuvenating your face and eyes.


Senobi is a deep-breathing exercise that originated in Japan. It’s believed to improve your metabolic rate and potentially promote weight loss.

Like some of the other techniques, Senobi also combines stretching and bodily movement into the breathwork.

As practising Senobi activates the whole body, it can help improve your circulation, as well as regulate your autonomic nervous system and hormone secretion for increased weight-loss abilities.

How to do it…

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Interlace your fingers and raise your arms above your head, palms facing upward
  • As you inhale deeply through your nose, reach upwards with your hands, stretching your whole body
  • Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth as you lower your arms back down to the starting position
  • Repeat this for several cycles, focusing on the deep inhalations and exhalations

Alternate nostril breathing

Our final exercise is a yogic breathing technique that helps balance the right and left hemispheres of your brain to enhance relaxation and reduce stress.

The idea is to breathe in through one nostril and out through the other, alternating nostrils as you go.

How to do it…

    • Sit comfortably with your back straight
    • Close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale deeply through your left nostril
    • Close your left nostril with your ring finger, release your thumb from the right nostril, and exhale through the right nostril
    • Inhale deeply through the right nostril
    • Close the right nostril, release the left nostril, and exhale through the left nostril
    • This completes one cycle. Repeat for several rounds

Consistency and regular practice are the keys to getting the benefits from these breathing exercises.

Over time, they can lead to you feeling less stressed, more focused, and generally happier and healthier – which, in turn, can help support your weight-loss results.

Finally, let’s take a look at what else you can combine breathing exercises with to boost your health and promote weight loss even further.

What else can you do to lose weight?

People laughing together

To add these exercises into your daily routine, start with just a few minutes of deep breathing each day, then gradually increase the duration and frequency.

Experiment with some of the techniques we’ve mentioned here, like box breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, and alternate nostril breathing, to find what works best for you. Consistency is key, so make it a habit to reap the rewards.

There are plenty of benefits that you can get from breathing exercises, including reduced stress levels and symptoms of anxiety, better digestion, increased calmness and mindfulness, and extra energy and vitality.

All of which can have positive effects on weight loss too. When you’re less stressed, you make better food choices and follow healthier eating habits. 

Enhanced energy means you’ll be more likely to get active and burn calories. And improved digestion and nutrient absorption can enhance your metabolism for increased weight-loss results.

But deep-breathing exercises aren’t the only thing you need to do to lose weight effectively.

While lowering your stress levels is a big part of how you feel and whether or not you can motivate yourself and make smart decisions—you also need to follow a healthy eating plan and do regular physical activity.

One final thing you can do to complete the weight-loss puzzle, alongside good food, exercise, and stress reduction, is to take a fat-burning and appetite-suppressing supplement.

Enter PhenQ

The ingredients in PhenQ can safely and naturally stimulate your metabolism to enhance fat burning and decrease body fat, as well curb your hunger and reduce food cravings. So it’s a double whammy for weight loss.

Alongside eating healthily and getting active each day, adding breathing exercises and a dose of PhenQ to your daily life can really boost your fat-burning results.

It’ll be bye-bye stress and bye-bye belly fat—so you can be the happiest and healthiest version of you.