Can Breathing Exercises Lower Blood Pressure?

Breathing exercises have been used for a long time and have shown to benefit many people for various reasons. I’m surprised they don’t get more press than they do. You’re probably wondering if they can benefit our purpose here. Let’s find out, can breathing exercises lower blood pressure?

Breathing exercises have lowered systolic blood pressure up to 22 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure up to 14 mmHg. Slow, deep breathing exercises lower blood pressure by activating the parasympathetic nervous system which decreases the heart rate and dilates blood vessels.

This article will slow down and take a look, or a deep breath, into exactly how they can benefit you. I’ll inform you of some studies and which breathing techniques perform the best!

BP TIP: Lower BP by just breathing? A device is FDA approved and The American Heart Association gave it the thumbs up. It simply guides your breathing a few minutes a day which has been proven to lower BP as shown in studies. You can check it out in the manufacturer’s website by clicking here.

Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

How Breathing Exercises Lower Blood Pressure

It’s difficult to grasp the idea of improving blood pressure without diet modification, exercise, medication or purchasing anything. It seems too good to be true. Therefore, how does breathing exercises lower blood pressure?

Breathing exercises lower blood pressure by reducing the sympathetic nervous system and activating the parasympathetic nervous system. The heart rate decreases and the blood vessels dilate allowing blood to flow easier which reduces blood pressure.

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are part of the body’s autonomic nervous system. They control the body’s internal processes like:

  • Heart rate
  • Breathing
  • Blood pressure
  • Body temperature
  • Digestion
  • Metabolism
  • Body fluid production like sweat, saliva and tears

The sympathetic nervous system 1 activates when a physical threat or stress is detected. It is the fight or flight reflex 2. It helped our ancestors fight or run from a wild animal. Today it can help fight or run from a physical attack. A sympathetic response can do the following:

  • Speeds up the heart rate.
  • Constricts blood vessels.
  • Provides more blood to the muscles and internal organs.
  • Opens airways to make breathing easier.
  • Dilates the pupils.
  • Makes your hair stand on end.
  • Slows down urination.
  • Slows down digestion.

The parasympathetic nervous system 3 does the opposite:

  • Decreases the heart rate.
  • Dilates blood vessels.
  • Decreases blood pressure.
  • Provides blood to the extremities.
  • Increases digestion.

Breathing exercises can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system benefiting blood pressure levels. How effective are breathing exercises? The following studies reveal how much people lowered their BP. After the studies we’ll find out what kind of breathing exercise performs the best.

How Much Breathing Exercises Lower Blood Pressure

Study

There’s an electrical device which helps guide breathing to lower blood pressure. It takes the thinking out of your breathing exercise and signals when and how to breath for a few minutes per day. The device has proven to perform exceptionally well and has 16 different trials.

One of them involved a 67 year-old woman who used the device for 8 weeks and lowered her blood pressure. Her systolic decreased by 17 mmHg and diastolic by 14 mmHg 4.

The device has nothing to do with medication. In addition, it’s cleared by the FDA and doesn’t require a prescription. The American Heart Association considers the device a reasonable treatment for lowering blood pressure 5.

If you’re interested in learning more about it and check it’s current price, visit their website by clicking here.

Study

This study involved 21,563 people who were divided into two groups. One groups blood pressure was measured before and after conducting a 30 second breathing exercise. The other groups BP were measured before and after a 30-second rest sitting down, without performing a breathing exercise.

Both groups reduced their blood pressure, but the breathing group experienced a larger decrease. The breathing exercise group reduced systolic by 6.4 mmHg and diastolic by 8.3 mmHg. The group which rested with no breathing reduced systolic by 3.0 mmHg and diastolic by 7.4 mmHg 6.

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Study

In this study the participants listened to music. One group listened to music and performed a breathing exercise. The other group listened to music only.

Both groups lowered their blood pressure but the group performing the breathing exercise reduced it more. They lowered both systolic and diastolic by 7.5/4.0 mmHg. The music only group lowered BP 5.0/2.7 mmHg 7.

Study

This recent study examined how a daily breathing exercise would affect the blood pressure of people who had isolated systolic hypertension. The participants performed 8 weeks of a daily breathing exercise. Each day the participants took six breaths per minute for 60 breaths.

At the end of the 8 weeks systolic BP decreased 22 mmHg and diastolic by 9 mmHg 8.

What type of breathing lowers blood pressure?

Deep, slowed breathing lowers blood pressure. This type of breathing activates the sympathetic nervous system which slows down the heart rate and opens blood vessels. This lowers systolic and diastolic blood pressure. 

There are many different variations how to perform deep, slowed breathing. They all mostly involve breathing in and out slowly with some pauses. One of the exercises, the 4-7-8 breathing exercise, is one of the most popular ones I get asked about. What is the 4 7 8 breathing technique?

The 4-7-8 breathing technique is performed by following these 6 steps:

  • Sit or lay down in a quiet area.
  • Close your eyes and relax your body.
  • Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four.
  • Hold this breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale through your mouth for a count of eight.
  • Repeat this cycle for three or four times without resting or normal breathing in between cycles.

I have my own version of this technique with shorter counts. This is because many of my clients have said the longer ones are more difficult to perform in the beginning. It’s called Blood Pressure Explained’s 4-5-6 breathing exercise.

4-5-6 Breathing Exercise

Perform this breathing exercise sitting or laying down and follow these steps:

  • Sit or lay down in a quiet area.
  • Close your eyes and relax your body.
  • Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four.
  • Hold this breath for a count of five.
  • Exhale through your mouth for a count of six.
  • Repeat this cycle for three or four times without resting or normal breathing in between cycles.

I wrote a whole blog post on 11 different breathing exercises which you can check out by clicking here, Breathing Exercises to Lower Blood Pressure Naturally.

Health Plan & Medication: As you know, medication and healthcare can get costly. There are more affordable plans, even temporary coverage, which can save you a great deal of money. Some plans have $0 premiums. Find out if you qualify by checking their website, New Plan Options.

Read Next

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Article Resources: Blood Pressure Explained follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Neuroanatomy, Sympathetic Nervous System[]
  2. Harvard Health: Stress raising your blood pressure? Take a deep breath[]
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Neuroanatomy, Parasympathetic Nervous System[]
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Device-Guided Breathing to Lower Blood Pressure: Case Report and Clinical Overview[]
  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Device-guided breathing exercises for the treatment of hypertension: An Overview[]
  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information: How does deep breathing affect office blood pressure and pulse rate? []
  7. Journal of Human Hypertension: Breathing-control lowers blood pressure[]
  8. Wiley Online Library: The effects of slow loaded breathing training on exercise blood pressure in isolated systolic hypertension[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on blood pressure topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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