Discover the Surprising Benefits of Breathing Exercises for Heart Rate

Imagine a simple, natural way to regulate your heart rate, reduce stress, and improve your overall well-being.

Team Respira
17 Apr 2023
8 min read
A person lying in bed and doing diaphragmatic breathing exercises to help them fall asleep

Breathing exercise for heart rate offers just that. They are powerful tools that can help you take control of your heart rate and improve your mental and physical health. In this blog post, you’ll discover the connection between breathing and heart rate, learn several effective breathing techniques, and find out how athletes and active individuals can benefit from specific breathing exercises. Let’s begin your journey to a healthier, more relaxed you.

Key Takeaways

•Breathing exercises can help regulate heart rate and reduce stress.
•Techniques such as diaphragmatic, resonance, pursed lip breathing & box breathing are beneficial for physical & mental wellbeing.
• Incorporating these practices into daily life with a schedule or technology can ensure the full benefits of this calming practice.

The Connection Between Breathing and Heart Rate

A person doing breathing exercises

Breathing and heart rate share a bidirectional relationship, influencing each other in various ways. Here are some key points to understand:

• As you inhale, your heart rate increases, and as you exhale, it slows down.
• This relationship can be affected by factors such as inhalation and exhalation patterns, breathing rate, and overall fitness.
• Practicing breathing exercises can help lower your blood pressure.

Comprehending the link between respiration and heart rate is vital for maintaining health and managing stress. Two key components of this connection are the autonomic nervous system and heart rate variability.

The Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system is a network of nerves that regulate unconscious processes and bodily functions such as:

• blood pressure
• breathing rate
• heart rate
• digestion
• body temperature
• pupil dilation
• sweating
• bladder control

It consists of two antagonistic sets of nerves: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

When you consciously take deep breaths, you can calm and manage your autonomic nervous system, which subsequently affects your heart rate and respiration. Various breathing techniques, such as box breathing, square breathing, and diaphragmatic breathing, can help regulate the autonomic nervous system. With regular practice, these techniques can effectively lower blood pressure, relieve stress, and promote overall relaxation.

Heart Rate Variability

Heart rate variability (HRV) is a crucial measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat and an indicator of overall health. It reflects the connection between breathing and heart rate, and can be influenced by various breathing exercises and stress management techniques.

When you engage in breathing methods that encourage longer exhalations—like pursed-lip breathing—you can enhance your HRV, minimize stress, and gain improved control over your heart rate.

Breathing Techniques to Regulate Heart Rate

A person doing diaphragmatic breathing

Breathing techniques can have a profound impact on regulating your heart rate and reducing stress. Diaphragmatic breathing, resonance breathing, and pursed-lip breathing are three effective methods that can help you achieve a sense of calm and improve your overall well-being.

Each of these many breathing techniques offers unique benefits, such as increased relaxation, improved breathing efficiency, and stress reduction. By incorporating relaxation techniques, including these respiratory practices in your everyday routine allows you to manage your heart rate, boost your mental clarity, and cultivate a heightened sense of health and contentment.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as abdominal or belly breathing, is a deep breathing technique that engages the diaphragm muscle in the belly. This form of breathing is characterized by the expansion of the stomach during inhalation and contraction during exhalation, promoting relaxation and improved heart rate control.

To practice diaphragmatic breathing, follow these steps:

1. Find a comfortable seated position or lie down with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
2. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
3. Inhale slowly and gently through your nose, feeling your stomach rise and your chest remain still.
4. Exhale slowly and calmly through your mouth, feeling your stomach fall and your chest remain still.

Regular practice of diaphragmatic breathing can reduce unpleasant feelings and physical effects of stress in healthy adults.

Resonance Breathing

Resonance breathing, also known as coherent breathing, is a technique that focuses on slow, rhythmic breaths to reduce anxiety and stress. It has been shown to have beneficial effects on heart rate variability, blood pressure response to stress, and mood.

To practice resonance breathing, follow these steps:

1. Find a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
2. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose.
3. Exhale slowly through your mouth, making a humming sound.
4. Focus on the sound of your breath and the vibration of your vocal cords for a calming experience.

Practicing resonance breathing at a gentle rate of 6 breaths per minute can help you relax and feel more at ease.

Pursed-Lip Breathing

Pursed-lip breathing is a simple method that slows down the pace of breathing, making it more efficient and helping to regulate heart rate. This technique involves taking a slow, deep breath in through the nose and slowly exhaling through pursed lips, making a gentle whistling sound.

To practice pursed-lip breathing, follow these steps:

1. Find a comfortable position and close your eyes.
2. Inhale slowly through your nose.Exhale slowly through your pursed lips.
3. Focus on the sound of your breath and the feeling of your lips.
4. Regular practice of pursed-lip breathing can help regulate and manage your breathing, allowing for a more efficient exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs.

It can also improve lung function in individuals with lung diseases such as asthma or COPD.

Box Breathing for Heart Rate Control

A person doing box breathing with four square breathing pattern

Box breathing, also known as square breathing or four square breathing, is a powerful technique for heart rate control that offers numerous benefits and easy practice methods. Derived from the yogic practice of pranayama, box breathing involves:

1. Taking a deep breath in
2. Holding it for four counts
3. Slowly exhaling for four counts
4. Holding your breath for four counts

This technique promotes relaxation, particularly when feeling overwhelmed, and is often used by professionals such as Navy SEALs and police officers to remain calm in stressful situations. Regularly engaging in box breathing can improve your overall health and facilitate better control over your heart rate.

Benefits of Box Breathing

Box breathing offers a range of benefits, including:

• Reduced stress
• Increased mental clarity
• Improved emotional well-being
• Better heart rate regulation

These benefits contribute to maintaining overall health.

In addition to reducing stress, box breathing can help sharpen focus and concentration, aid in anxiety and stress management, and promote overall wellness. Incorporating box breathing into your everyday regimen enables you to reap its many benefits and cultivate a deeper sense of calm and serenity.

How to Practice Box Breathing

An image illustrating the Box Breathing technique, a popular breathing exercise for heart rate control

Practicing box breathing is simple and can be done in various settings, such as at work, home, or even during a stressful day. To begin, find a quiet and comfortable space where you can focus on your breath without distractions.

Inhale slowly through your nose for four counts, hold your breath for four counts, exhale slowly through your mouth for four counts, and hold your breath for four counts. Repeat this process one or two times a day for optimal results.

With consistent practice, box breathing can help lower stress and anxiety, sharpen focus and concentration, and balance heart rate by regulating your breathing pattern.

Breathing Exercises for Athletes and Active Individuals

A person doing pre-exercise breathing

Athletes and active individuals can benefit from specific breathing exercises designed for pre-exercise preparation and post-exercise recovery. Including these exercises in your routine can elevate your performance, hasten your recovery, and help maintain peak performance.

Pre-exercise breathing techniques, such as alternate nostril breathing, can help calm the mind and prepare the body for physical activity. On the other hand, recovery breathing exercises like 4-7-8 breathing can aid in relaxation and stress reduction after intense workouts, promoting better heart rate control and overall well-being.

Pre-Exercise Breathing

Alternate nostril breathing is a gentle, pre-exercise breathing technique that can help relax and ease any anxieties before a workout, yoga, or meditation session. It involves practicing slow, deep breaths while alternately closing each nostril with a finger.

Take a seat with your posture straight to practice alternate nostril breathing. This will open up your chest and provide the best outcome. Rest the index and middle fingers of your right hand (or left hand if more comfortable) next to each other between your eyebrows.

Including alternate nostril breathing before physical activity can help minimize stress and anxiety, boost focus and concentration, and possibly heighten energy levels.

Recovery Breathing

Recovery breathing exercises, like the 4-7-8 breathing method, are designed to help you relax, reduce stress, and improve your sleep after intense workouts. These exercises can be done anywhere and can be beneficial for both physical and mental well-being.

To practice 4-7-8 breathing, find a comfortable position and close your eyes. Take a deep breath in for four counts, hold your breath for seven counts, and then slowly exhale for eight counts.

Regular practice of recovery breathing exercises can foster relaxation, boost sleep quality, and encourage overall wellness, leading to better heart rate control and improved health.

Tips for Incorporating Breathing Exercises into Daily Life

A person doing breathing exercises while sitting in a comfortable chair

A few straightforward tips can simplify the integration of breathing exercises into your everyday life. Setting a schedule for regular practice can help establish a routine and ensure consistent benefits from your breathing exercises. This can be achieved by dedicating a specific time of day for practice, such as in the morning, before bed, or during a break in your day.

Another helpful tip is to use technology, such as smartphone apps or wearable devices, to provide guidance and reminders for practicing your breathing techniques throughout the day. Apps like Breathing-Mentor and iBreathe can offer instructions and guidance for deep breathing exercises, as well as help you monitor your progress.

Setting a Schedule

Creating a routine for your breathing exercises is crucial for ensuring you make time for them and experience their full benefits. Start by setting a schedule and selecting a consistent time of day when you can take a few moments for your breathing exercises. This could be in the morning, before bed, or during a break in your day.

Prioritizing your breathing exercises and adhering to your schedule is vital. Consistency is key to getting the most out of this practice. Don’t forget to find a quiet and comfortable space where you can focus on your breath without distractions.

Potential Risks and Precautions

Despite the general safety and benefits of breathing exercises, it’s vital to recognize potential risks and precautions. Overexertion, or pushing oneself too hard, can lead to injury or exhaustion. Additionally, certain breathing exercises may exacerbate existing health conditions, leading to further complications.

Before you embark on a new breathing exercise regimen, you should consult a healthcare professional to ascertain that the exercises are appropriate for your specific needs. By taking precautions and being mindful of potential risks, you can safely and effectively incorporate breathing exercises into your daily life, reaping the benefits of improved heart rate regulation and overall well-being.


Breathing exercises offer a natural, accessible way to regulate your heart rate, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. By understanding the connection between breathing and heart rate, learning various techniques such as diaphragmatic, resonance, and pursed-lip breathing, and incorporating these exercises into your daily routine, you can experience the transformative benefits of better heart rate control. Whether you’re an athlete, an active individual, or simply seeking a more relaxed and focused life, breathing exercises hold the key to unlocking a healthier, more balanced you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you breathe to bring down your heart rate?

Deep, slow breathing through your nose can help bring down your heart rate. Focus on allowing your abdomen to rise and fall with each breath, and continue until your heart rate is back to normal.

Which breathing exercise is best for heart?

The 4-7-8 breathing technique is best for your heart, focusing on deep inhalation and an even deeper exhalation. By exhaling to clear any air buildup first, then inhaling for four seconds and holding a relaxed breath, it helps promote a calming effect for your heart.

Can deep breathing help with high heart rate?

Yes, deep breathing can help with high heart rate. It activates the autonomic nervous system and the vagus nerve, which helps slow down the heart rate and reduce blood pressure. Studies have also shown that this kind of diaphragmatic breathing can reduce feelings of anxiety or tension.

How does the 4-7-8 breathing trick work?

The 4-7-8 breathing technique involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds, allowing people to manage their anxiety and even fall asleep.

Is 4-7-8 breathing harmful?

No, 4-7-8 breathing is not harmful. It can even benefit your health, however, it's best for beginners to only practice 4 cycles at a time until more comfortable. Avoid practicing if pregnant or have a severe medical condition.


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