Having COPD makes it harder to breath, which can lead to avoiding activities that leave you breathless. Here are some breathing exercises for people living with COPD:
This exercise involves breathing in through the nose (as if smelling something) for about two seconds. Then, purse the lips (like you are whistling or kissing) for two to three times longer than when you inhaled. Repeat as needed. This exercise makes exhaling easier for the person, and they also are able to extend exhalation, which provides improved oxygen and carbon dioxide gas exchange.
Pursed-lips breathing offers the following benefits:
- Slows down breathing
- Keeps airways open longer so your lungs can get rid of more stale, trapped air
- Reduces the work of breathing
- Increases the amount of time you can exercise of perform an activity
- Improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide
Diaphragmatic (Abdominal/Belly) Breathing
The diaphragm is supposed to do most of the work when breathing, but COPD prevents the diaphragm from working properly. Instead the neck, shoulders, and back are used while breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing may seem more difficult than pursed-lip breathing and seeking help from a health care professional is recommended.
Begin by sitting back or lying down. Relax your shoulders and place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Inhale through the nose for two seconds. During inhalation, your belly should move outward and more than your chest. Exhale slowly through pursed-lips and gently press on your belly. This helps get the air out by pushing on the diaphragm. Repeat as needed.
Diaphragmatic breathing offers the following benefits:
- Increases total air volume exchange
- Trains the diaphragm
- Easier breathing
Shortness of breath may cause you anxiety and you might hold your breath. Coordinated breathing helps to prevent this from happening. Before you are able to begin an exercise, inhale through the nose. Exhale, through pursed-lips, during the most strenuous part of the exercise. Coordinated breathing can be practiced during exercise or when feeling anxious.
Shortness of breath can be caused by air getting trapped in your lungs and deep breathing can prevent this from happening. This exercise will also allow you to breathe in more fresh air. Begin by sitting or standing with your elbows slightly back, allowing your chest to expand more. Inhale deeply and hold your breath for a count of five. Exhale slowly and deeply until all the air has been released. Repeat as needed.
The huff cough helps you cough up mucus that had built up in your lungs. COPD can make it difficult to cough without getting tired, but the huff cough makes it easier to cough up mucus. Begin by sitting in a comfortable position and inhale slightly deeper than normal. Exhale while making a “ha, ha, ha” sound, as if you are trying to steam up a mirror. This allows you to become less tired when coughing up mucus. Repeat as needed.