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  • Writer's pictureDmitri Konash

Benefits Of Slow Breathing

Updated: May 25, 2023

How to make slow breathing a daily health habit in 4 steps.


Why I started performing slow breathing exercises?


“The doctor wants to talk to you about the blood test,” said the nurse worryingly. As I was sitting in the waiting room I felt close to having a panic attack. Heightened anxiety which I thought had long gone was creeping back in. What nasty disease have they found during this regular medical checkup?


That’s when I thought about using a box breathing exercise used by the Navy Seals to calm down and get focused before a mission. I tried the recommended breathing pattern of inhaling/holding breath/exhaling/holding breath. In about 5 min I started to feel better. “How bad could it be?


Surely enough it was a mistake. A repeat blood test was fine. This experience with a box breathing exercise however made me explore slow breathing in more detail.


Slow breathing medical term?


Slow breathing is taking the world by storm. In a way it is similar to the explosion of interest in meditation around 10 years ago. Should we make it a part of our daily routine?


Slow breathing means reducing the rate of breath from usual 12-20 breaths per minute to 5-7. This brings two primary benefits.


1. It activates a parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for ‘rest and digest behaviour’. We become calmer. This effect can be objectively measured with HRV (heart rate variability). Or, less accurately, with changes in our pulse. More on this below.


2. It raises the level of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the blood and ultimately leads to a better O2 (oxygen) absorption. It helps to address some respiratory disorders. Our brains get more O2 and we start thinking more clearly. Scientists also hypothesise that slower breathing decreases oxidative stress in our bodies. Hence, increasing our life span.


What is the scientific evidence of health benefits of slow breathing?


1. Conclusion from a recent scientific paper on this topic: “Controlled, slow breathing appears to be an effective means of maximising HRV and preserving autonomic function, both of which have been associated with decreased mortality in pathological states and longevity in the general population” [1]. In plain English: Slow breathing makes you calmer. Being generally calmer means living for longer.


2. The Oxygen Advantage book by Patrick McKeown [2] is an exciting story of the author treating his own asthma with slow breathing exercises. After fine tuning the treatment protocol Patrick helped thousands of people with respiratory disorders.


The book provides a detailed scientific explanation why this method works. It is also full of practical exercises which help to manage body weight, improve athletic performance and even stop snoring during a sleep. I tried exercises in this book and found that they really work. Highly recommended.


3. Some mammals, like bats, echidnas and naked mole rats live un-proportionally longer as compared to similar sized mammals. For example, naked mole rats live up to 30 years which is 10-15 longer, then their cousin - mice. Scientists [3] attribute this to a large degree to the fact that these animals have low respiratory rates, their arterial O2 levels are relatively low and C02 levels are relatively high (as compared to other mammals of similar size).


4 Steps to make slow breathing a daily habit


I borrowed them from a great book, “Tiny Habits” by BJ Fogg [4]. BJ Fogg is a behavioural scientist from Stanford University, who has studied the habit creation process for over 20 years. I tried these steps and they worked beautifully for me.


1. Create a basic motivation.

For me this means to have a belief that something really works. The best thing about slow breathing is that even a few minutes practice produces an objectively measurable difference. You can objectively measure an outcome of a 5 min slow breathing exercise. You can do it with either a smartphone, Apple Watch or blood pressure monitor.


If you have an elevated blood pressure you may try the following experiment. Measure your blood pressure. Then follow a breathing circle on our YouTube video with breathing exercises to lower blood pressure. Then measure your blood pressure again. Most people observe a clear reduction in their blood pressure.


2. Find an anchor moment.

This is a moment which is already hard wired in your daily routine. Practicing your new habit either right before or right after an anchor moment significantly increases chances of it to stick. I usually practice slow breathing 2-3 times every day.


After lunch. Many people are a little slower at this time, as our bodies are digesting a meal. It’s a great time to sit with a straight back, close eyes for 5 min and do slow breathing.

Laying in my bed just before getting to sleep. 5-10 minutes of slow breathing does magic for me. I fall asleep quickly and enjoy a restful night


3. Make the behaviour you want a tiny one.

Anyone can find 10min in a day to build a new useful habit. I provided several examples above showing that even 5 min of deep breathing at a time makes a measurable positive effect. If you have more time - great, breath slowly for 15 or 20 min. But even if you do this twice a day for 5 min, you will still see a lasting positive effect.


4. Celebrate instantly.

Do something which creates a positive emotion. Just say to yourself “I did a good job!” If you wake up fully refreshed next morning after a slow breathing exercise, it’s a great reason to celebrate, right?


Breathing exercises app to enhance benefits of slow breathing.

I am passionate about breathing exercises and hence we created a mobile app BreathNow which includes several different fixed breathing techniques: from making your calmer to increasing your focus prior to important events.


BreathNow is The breathing app for slow breathing for health benefits

The app also has a powerful system of reminders which is loved by our users. They help to create a habit of doing breathing exercises regularly.

BreathNow also includes instructional videos with relaxing exercises which augment slow breathing: meditation, yoga, stretching, etc.


Update March 2023. BreathNow includes now breathing exercises which can be performed on Apple Watch. BreathNow is unique because it includes different breathing exercises and other calming guides, a heart rate and stress monitor which work with your phone's camera and do not require external sensors as well as a blood pressure Tracker.


Give it a try. Most of the functions are free and we provide a free 3 day trial of premium feature. Would love to hear your feedback. Stay healthy!



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