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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic health condition that can take a toll on an individual’s body, affecting their ability to breathe. It often occurs alongside other diseases, such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

If you have COPD, some of the common symptoms you’re likely to experience include –

  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Presence of a large amount of mucus in the lungs
  • Shortness of breath

These symptoms ‌ worsen over time, but their progression can be minimized by practicing breathing exercises daily. By managing your breathing through breathing exercises, you will exert your body less while performing daily activities. It can further aid your exercise routine, making you feel more energetic throughout the day.

Breathing Techniques for COPD:

Pursed Lip Breathing

Pursed Lip Breathing

Pursed lip breathing is the most popular breathing technique recommended for people with COPD. Here are some of its benefits –

  • It helps in reducing the amount of work you must put in for breathing.
  • It helps in releasing trapped air that may be present inside your lungs.
  • It helps in promoting relaxation.
  • It helps in reducing shortness of breath.

You must perform the pursed lip breathing exercise at least four or five times daily to see a difference. Here are the steps you must follow –

  • Keep your mouth closed and inhale deeply using your nose while you count to two. It doesn’t ‌have to be a deep breath. It would be like a regular inhalation.
  • Get your lips together like you’re trying to blow out candles or whistle; it is essentially called “pursing” the lips.
  • While you keep your lips pursed, breathe out slowly while you count to four. You don’t have to force it, just do it gradually with your mouth.

You should perform this breathing exercise when doing some sort of strenuous exercise, such as walking uphill or climbing stairs.

Deep Breathing

Deep Breathing

Through deep breathing, you’ll be able to prevent air from being trapped inside your lungs–the reason behind experiencing shortness of breath. By performing it daily, you will breathe in the fresh air.

Follow these instructions to perform deep breathing at home –

  • Stand or sit while keeping your elbows slightly backward. It will help your chest to expand more.
  • Take a deep breath using your nose.
  • Hold it till you count five.
  • Exhale slowly and deeply using your nose until all the air you inhaled has left your lungs.

It is ideal for performing this breathing exercise along with other exercises for around 10 minutes each time. You must try to do it at least three or four times a day.

Coordinated Breathing

Coordinated Breathing

Many people with COPD experience anxiety because of shortness of breath, which may be the reason ‌ they hold their breath. However, you can prevent it from happening by practicing coordinated breathing regularly. Here are the two steps you need to do for coordinated breathing –

  • Take in air through your nose when you begin an exercise.
  • Keep your lips pursed and exhale the air using your mouth when the exercise is highly strenuous. For instance, you could perform this breathing technique when you curl up while performing a biceps

It is best to do coordinated breathing when you feel anxious or when you do exercises.

Huff Cough

Huff Cough

Because of COPD, mucus is more likely to build up inside your lungs. Through the huff cough method, you will ‌get rid of the mucus effectively by coughing it out. The best part about this breathing technique is that it won’t leave you feeling too tired.

Follow the following steps to perform the huff cough breathing technique –

  • Sit in a comfortable position. Breathe air slightly deeper than your usual breath with your mouth.
  • Use your stomach muscles to blow the air out and do it in three even breaths while you make the sounds “ha, ha, ha.” The force of the breath would be like how you’d blow on a glass window to create steam.

It should be less tiring than your traditional cough, and coughing up mucus regularly will help in preventing your body from wearing out sooner.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic Breathing

With breathing, the diaphragm has an essential role to play. Individuals with COPD depend more on the shoulders, back, and neck accessory muscles to breathe instead of the diaphragm.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique that encourages you to retrain your abdominal muscles to function more efficiently. Here are a few tips on how you can do it –

  • Relax your shoulders while you sit or lie down and put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly.
  • Breath in for two seconds through your nose and be mindful of how your stomach bulges outward. If your stomach moves more than your chest, you’re doing it correctly.
  • Purse your lips and slowly breathe out through the mouth while dabbing your stomach. When you do it right, it will help you use your diaphragm for breathing
  • Continue this breathing exercise whenever you can find the time.

When you compare this exercise with the other breathing exercises for COPD, you’ll notice that it is slightly complicated. If you’re having trouble doing it the right way, it’s best to enroll in a COPD rehabilitation program where they can teach you all the breathing techniques and the correct way to do them.

Additional Breathing Tips

People with COPD will find it difficult to breathe, which is a natural consequence of their chronic condition. However, performing breathing exercises for COPD can be helpful in strengthening the breathing muscles, getting more oxygen, and breathing with less effort.

You can further improve your breathing by introducing a couple of lifestyle changes. It will not only help you breathe better but also prevent the condition from getting worse. Let’s take a quick look at them –

  • If you smoke, you must quit it immediately.
  • Get some fresh air into your body by getting a room purifier. Stay away from dust, fumes, pollen, and pollution.
  • Other than breathing exercises, perform regular exercise to strengthen your muscles and improve your endurance.
  • Eat a healthy diet to have more energy in your body.
  • Keep checking your weight and maintain a healthy one.
  • Stay away from chemicals, which are often found in soaps and perfumes.
  • Keep seeing your doctor regularly to understand how your lungs are functioning and what you can do to improve their functioning.
  • Take your prescribed medicines on time.
  • Go to bed on time and follow a healthy sleep schedule.
  • Try to avoid getting the flu by getting a yearly flu shot.
  • Take oxygen therapy if your breathing gets extremely bad.

Closing Thoughts

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) states that breathing exercises for COPD can significantly improve people’s capacity to exercise daily by reducing shortness of breath. Cumulatively, it can lead to an overall improvement of the individual’s quality of life, provided you introduce the lifestyle changes necessary for keeping your lungs healthy.