COPD Exercises to Improve Your Breathing

Here are some COPD Exercises that may help you to cope. One of the distressing things about COPD is finding it difficult to breathe. Unfortunately, this problem creates a kind of snowball effect – it creates an anxiousness which in turn makes breathing even more difficult. You need to break the cycle.

So let’s start with a couple of breathing techniques that will allow you to get enough air without exhausting yourself. The first of our COPD exercises is one is called “Pursed-lips Breathing”.

First, we want to relax. When you’re anxious, you tend to hold your shoulders tense and high. So before we do our pursed lips method, just take a few moments to drop your shoulders down, close your eyes, and relax.

Pursed-Lips Breathing COPD Exercises

  •     Slows your breathing down
  •     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 or perform an activity
  •     Improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide

How to do purse-lips breathing:

  •     Breathe in through your nose (as if you are smelling something) for about 2 seconds.
  •     Pucker your lips like you’re getting ready to blow out candles on a birthday cake.
  •     Breathe out very slowly through pursed-lips, two to three times as long as you breathed in.
  •     Repeat.

copd exercises

The second of COPD exercises is called Diaphragmatic (Abdominal/Belly) Breathing. The diaphragm is your primary breathing muscle. It’s the one you call upon to do most of the work. One of the legacies of COPD, is that your diaphragm doesn’t work so well and so you tend to fall back on the muscles in your neck, shoulders and back to get the job done. Unfortunately, these muscles don’t do much to move your air. So we want to train our diaphragm to take over more of the work of breathing.

Diaphragmatic breathing is not as easy to do as pursed-lips breathing. You might want to see a respiratory health care professional or physical therapist who is  experienced in teaching it and get some guidance from them.

The best times to use the Diaphragmatic Breathing technique is when you’re feeling rested and relaxed. Get yourself into a comfortable position either sitting back or lying down. Here we go:

Diaphragmatic Breathing COPD Exercise

  •     Relax your shoulders.
  •     Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly.
  •     Inhale through your nose for about two seconds.
  •     As you breathe in, your belly should move outward. Your belly should move more than your chest.
  •     As you breathe out slowly through pursed-lips, gently press on your belly. This will push up on your diaphragm to help get your air out.
  •     Repeat.

Ways to Improve Your Breathing with COPD Exercises

When you are feeling short of breath during exercise or regular activities, use these 3 steps:

  •     Stop your activity.
  •     Reset by sitting down, relax your shoulders, and do pursed-lips breathing until you catch your breath.
  •     Continue activity, doing pursed-lips breathing as you go. Go at a slower pace if you need to.

If you use these COPD exercises regularly, you should begin to notice a difference in your quality of breathing. The important thing is to try not to panic. Just enjoy the experience of breathing; savour each breath and nurture yourself in the moment.

One Reply to “COPD Exercises to Improve Your Breathing”

  1. Thank you for the information. I have found that the breathing exercises have helped me. I didn’t realize it is as serious as you seem to make it. I will have to follow up with my MD after Covid settles down. I do have multiple underlying conditions as well – quintuple by pass, past valley fever (histoplasmosis) and a few lung spots.
    But I feel great at 82.

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