November is National COPD Awareness Month. Educating family members, caregivers, and the COPD community will help improve the lives of the millions of people in the United States living with COPD. In this blog we are sharing breathing exercises for those with COPD. 

Deep Breathing 

Deep breathing helps your body take in more fresh air and prevents air from getting stuck in your lungs. In order to practice deep breathing, follow these steps: 

  1. Sit or stand in a comfortable position, with your elbows positioned slightly back. This position allows your chest to expand more fully. 
  2. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. 
  3. Let the air out and then cough strongly. 
  4. Repeat these steps up to 10 times every hour. 

Pursed Lip Breathing 

Pursed lip breathing helps you slow down your breathing and stay calm. This exercise is helpful before you start an activity or when you feel short of breath. In order to practice pursed lip breathing, follow these steps: 

  1. Breathe in through your nose for about two seconds. Use your abdominal muscles to help fill your lungs with air. 
  2. Pucker your lips as if you’re about to blow out a candle and then breathe out slowly through your mouth. Breathe out twice as long as when you inhaled. Make a quiet hissing sound as you exhale. 
  3. Repeat several times. 

Diaphragmatic Breathing 

Diaphragmatic breathing is also known as belly breathing and it helps strengthen the diaphragm. People with COPD often get air trapped in their lungs and it pushes on the lungs. As a result, people with COPD tend to use their neck, shoulder, and back muscles more than the diaphragm when breathing. Follow these steps to practice this breathing technique:  

  1. Lie on a flat surface and make sure you support your head and bend your knees. 
  2. Place one hand just below your ribs and the other in the middle of your chest over your breastbone and breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. 
  3. Tighten the muscles just below your ribs and breathe out slowly through pursed lips. 
  4. Repeat. 

Controlled Coughing 

Coughing constantly can cause airways to collapse, making it incredibly difficult to breathe. Deep within the lungs, controlled coughing loosens and carries the mucus through the airways safely and saves oxygen. To practice controlled coughing follow these steps: 

  1. Sit on a chair with both feet on the floor and lean forward. 
  2. Fold your arms across your belly and breathe in slowly through your nose. 
  3. Lean forward and exhale, pressing your arms into your belly.  
  4. Slightly open your mouth and cough two to three times. 
  5. Gently and slowly inhale through your nose. 

Cardiac rehabilitation therapist Claudia Cavey, RN., states that “These exercises can help you stay relaxed when you feel your symptoms escalate and even prevent shortness of breath from occurring in the first place.”