By Gray Jessiman, First Mile Care DPP Coach

Breathwork or active breathing has become a popular component of wellness programs in the last few years because of its many health benefits. Like meditation, active breathing can reduce stress and anxiety, promote better sleep, and improve symptoms of depression. Breathwork can be a useful technique for people with prediabetes who are trying to lose weight to address their glucose (blood sugar) levels. 

In the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), our coaches counsel participants on stress management as a component of a healthy lifestyle. Stress increases inflammation, the foundation for almost all chronic diseases. The relationship between stress and weight loss is important to understand. When the body is experiencing stress or anxiety, the stress releases hormones that cause the body to elevate blood sugar, store fat, and have a more difficult time burning fuel for energy. 

When you are in a stress-producing situation, the sympathetic mode of your nervous system takes over, releasing adrenaline and causing your heart rate to race and your blood pressure to rise. As you experience this acute fight or flight” mode, your appetite may be temporarily suppressed. But if the stress becomes chronic, it causes a release of cortisol which may affect your appetite and could create food cravings

Moreover, just the mere fact that you are stressed will elevate your blood sugar. Therefore, the more time you spend being stressed, the more time your glucose level remains high, which becomes a health issue over time. Learning coping mechanisms, identifying the connection between your moods and your snack cravings and adopting good sleep hygiene to bring down your stress level, are all key to maintaining normal blood sugar. You may not be able to change the stress-provoking situation, but you can change the way you react to it.

One mechanism for better managing your emotional state is controlled breathing. Many types of breathing involve long exhales, which slow the heart rate and help to relax a person. This kind of breathing affects the parasympathetic mode of your nervous system, also known as the rest and digest” mode. During this time, blood pressure goes down, heart rate slows, and stress hormones decrease. 

“Breathe, breathe in the air …”

Specific breathing exercises are used for therapeutic purposes including relaxation and improving well-being. Exercises may include changing the breathing depth, such as deep or shallow breathing. It can include changing breathing rate, i.e., how quickly or how long it is done. Additional breathing exercises include changing the way air is inhaled, either through the mouth or the nostrils, and other components of breathing that control different body parts, such as relaxing or contracting the stomach.

Andrew Huberman of the Huberman Lab has shown the science behind various types of breathing. Box breathing, cyclic sighing, and cyclic hyperventilation are three types of breathing that can help you to reduce stress and feel more balanced and grounded in your everyday life. The first two are easy to do and do not require supervision. 


  1. Box breathing is a simple inhale, a pause, and an exhale. You inhale for three to four breaths, pause for three to four breaths, and exhale for three to four breaths. As the name implies, it is a simple method and can be easily implemented.
  2. Cyclic sighing works very quickly in real time. Cyclic Sighing is one big long inhale through the nose, followed by a short, sharp inhale, and then a slow exhale through the mouth. This type of breathing balances the carbon dioxide in the body and has been shown to be the most effective in reducing stress.
  3. Cyclic hyperventilation has a similar effect to cyclic sighing, but the initial breathing is a very active breathing that increases adrenaline and epinephrine and activates the autonomic arousal state of the nervous system. When you do this, you have more carbon dioxide in your blood and are in a slightly hyperventilated state. You may experience a tingly sensation and feel a little agitated, but the end result after this type of breathwork is a feeling of calm.


However, it’s important to be aware that this type of breathing exercise is best done under the supervision of an experienced facilitator, as you could experience dream-like images. Some people have even reported that this type of intensive circular breathing helps them explore their unconscious mind and heal from trauma. 

If you’re participating in the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program and are interested in using breathwork to help improve your emotional balance and well-being, try exploring these breathing techniques. Experiment with box breathing first, and then move to cyclic sighing, and track how they help you to relax and reduce your stress levels. “Take a deep breath” is a simple but effective piece of advice that is easily practiced at any stage of life.


To learn more about how you can benefit from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program, take the prediabetes risk test and get started today!