Research shows: even short slow-paced breathing exercises have great impact on your health

September 20th, 2021,

5 min read

Research shows: even short slow-paced breathing exercises have great impact on your healthfeatured image

When you breathe slowly, your nervous system calms down. You can feel the changes happening in your body, but how can this be explained? What does science say about the effects of slow breathing? Our postdoctoral researcher at moonbird, Elisabeth Honinx, assembles the most interesting studies on breathing.

Immediate physiological effect of a 5 min slow-paced breathing exercise

Science shows that slow paced breathing exercises have a direct impact on your body’s physiology. Elisabeth: “Researchers investigated the effects of a brief, 5 minute slow-paced breathing exercise on physiological variables, in particular the effect on the parasympathetic nervous system*.

The parasympathetic nervous system is activated when you feel safe enough to relax, sleep, or connect with others. Your blood pressure decreases, your breathing slows down and creativity and energy are boosted. Parasympathetic activity can be estimated via the parameter Heart Rate Variability (HRV). High HRV levels represent more parasympathetic activity.

The researchers hypothesized that, in comparison to the control condition, the brief slow-paced breathing exercise would trigger an increase in HRV.”

How the research was conducted: 61 athletes took part

The research was conducted with athletes. Sixty-one athletes aged 18 - 30 participated in the study. Slow-paced breathing was induced via a video showing a ball moving up and down. Participants were asked to match their breath to the rhythm of the ball.

They had to go through two conditions in a counterbalanced order. The first, slow-paced breathing condition included 5 minutes of slow-paced breathing. The second was a control condition with 5 minutes of rest (uncontrolled, natural breathing).

The slow-paced breathing exercise included inhalation lasting 4 seconds and exhalation 6 seconds. HRV was measured via an electrocardiogram.

Conclusion? Even short breathing exercises seem to have great impact

Significant increases in parasympathetic activity (HRV) were shown in the slow-paced breathing condition compared to the control condition. These findings suggest that also short slow-paced breathing exercises can already lead to significant increases in parasympathetic activity compared to previous studies that focused on longer practice times.

The researchers did indicate that, although the physiological benefits are immediate, regular practice may be required in order to also perceive psychological benefits. In fact, it may take some time to get used to slow breathing. But don’t let that hold you back. You’ll be highly rewarded.

Hockey player Aline Fobe on slow-paced breathing with moonbird

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Moonbird is specifically designed to guide you in doing slow-paced breathing exercises. Breathing with moonbird works great for anyone who wants to lower their stress levels, sleep better and improve their overall health. Also athletes benefit from breathing with moonbird, as it helps them physically and mentally calm down between moments of high performance and pressure. Moreover, slow-paced breathing improves their overall vagal activity, health and performance.

Aline Fobe, Belgium hockey player and Corporate Wellbeing Consultant at Energy Lab, explains what she likes about moonbird:

As a former top athlete and corporate wellbeing consultant at Energy Lab, I realize how important it is to sufficiently relax and unwind between all the challenging and stressful moments that come our way. I see moonbird as my personal breathing coach that helps me to become more aware of my breathing patterns. It gives me an instant feeling of peace, so that I can recharge my own energy battery again and again.

Curious what breathing with moonbird can do for you? Our tool is always free to try for two weeks. Because we’re only happy when you are :) Find out more here.

* Source You M, Laborde S, Zammit N, et al. Emotional Intelligence Training: Influence of a Brief Slow-Paced Breathing Exercise on Psychophysiological Variables Linked to Emotion Regulation. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(12):6630. Published 2021 Jun 20. doi:10.3390/ijerph18126630

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