September 26, 2023

Breath Better, Live Better: Effective COPD Breathing Exercises

Author: Jessica Fox

Lifestyle WhiteFemale Yoga2
Breathing exercises can benefit individuals with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) by improving lung function, reducing breathlessness, and increasing oxygen intake.1 These exercises can help strengthen the respiratory muscles, improve the efficiency of breathing, and promote better airway clearance. By practicing breathing exercises regularly, individuals with COPD can enhance their lung capacity and reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms.

Here are a few helpful breathing exercises that may be helpful:

Before starting any new exercise regimen, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider. Aim to practice these exercises for a minimum of 5-10 minutes, 4-5 times a day.2

1. Pursed Lip Breathing

This exercise involves inhaling slowly through the nose and exhaling slowly through pursed lips as if you were blowing out birthday candles. This can help relieve shortness of breath and help improve the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Tip: Think of it as "smell the flowers (inhale) and blow out the candle (exhale)."

2. Diaphragmatic Breathing

This breathing technique uses the diaphragm, a muscle located below the lungs, to breathe deeply and fully. It helps to expand the lungs and increase oxygen intake.3

Here is how to do it:

  1. While sitting or lying down, with relaxed shoulders, place a hand on your chest and place the other hand on your stomach.
  2. Take a breath in through your nose for 2 seconds.   Place your hands on your stomach to feel it rise as you inhale.
  3. Purse your lips and breathe out slowly through your mouth, pressing lightly on your stomach. This will enhance your diaphragm’s ability to release air.

3. Huff Coughing

This breathing method is used to clear mucus from the lungs.4 It involves taking a deep breath in, then exhaling forcefully while making a “huff” sound. This can help to loosen and move mucus, making it easier to cough up.

Here is how to do it:

  1. In a seated position, inhale through your mouth, slightly deeper than a normal breath.
  2. Use your stomach muscles to blow the air out in three even breaths making a huff sound or “ha, ha, ha”.

4. Coordinated Breathing

This is a synchronized breathing technique that involves coordinating inhalation and exhalation with a specific movement or action. This could be beneficial for individuals to improve breathing efficiency and reduce breathlessness during activities like exercise.5

Here is how to do it:

  1. Inhale through your nose before beginning an exercise.
  2. While pursing your lips, breathe out through your mouth during the most strenuous part of the exercise.

5. Deep Breathing

This exercise involves taking slow deep breaths inhaling through your nose to fill the lungs completely with air. Hold your breath as you count to 5, and slowly exhale through your nose.6 It can help to relax the body, reduce stress, and improve oxygenation. Deep breathing exercises are often recommended for relaxation, anxiety management, and improving lung function.

Now that you have a general understanding of some effective COPD breathing exercises remember to consult with your healthcare providers before starting any new exercise program. They can provide personalized guidance for proper technique and safety.


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