Breathing Exercises for Smokers

Man lying in hammock smoking cigar, friends by barbecue in background
Deep breathing exercises can help smokers quit smoking. (Image: Christopher Robbins/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Cigarette smokers experience changes in their lung function that may affect the ability to breathe deeply. Breathing exercises can help to relieve this problem by re-training your lungs to breathe more deeply. Smokers also can use deep breathing techniques to relieve stress when trying to quit smoking. Deep breathing is an activity you likely associate with smoking; learning deep breathing techniques on your own, however, can help you identify it as a relaxing exercise not associated with smoking.

Pursed-lip Breathing

Pursed-lip breathing helps to expand your lungs and improve your lung function. To perform, stand and take a deep breath in through your nose, feeling the air fill your lungs. Next, purse your lips as if you are going to whistle. Breathe out through your pursed lips, using your lungs, diaphragm and airways to move the breath coming out of your lips, but do not force the breath outward. Try to breathe out as long as you breathe in.

Coordinated Breath

Coordinated breathing helps to get oxygen to your muscles and tissues, especially when you are exercising. To begin, inhale through your nose when you begin an exercise, such as a situp. When you reach the point where the activity becomes the most difficult -- such as at the top of a situp -- exhale to with your lips closed slightly. Concentrate on repeating this breath with each ensuing repetition. This breathing exercise keeps you from holding your breath during an exercise session, which can commonly occur when you are concentrating on an exercise.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

The diaphragm is your breathing muscle that pulls on the lungs, enabling you to exhale and inhale. As a smoker, your body may begin to use other muscles, such as those of the rib cage, neck or abdomen to breathe deeply. Start this exercise by lying on your back and placing a small book or your hand on your abdomen. Focus on your hand or book as you breathe in and out. Your hand should rise when you breathe in and lower when you breathe out. Continue practicing this exercise until you have done so for 20 minutes a day. This exercise also can be performed sitting up once you have successfully accomplished it while lying down.

Tip

If you have difficulty exhaling in this manner, you may wish to lean forward slightly, placing your hands on a wall in front of you. This bent-over position helps you to re-position the diaphragm and help you breathe more deeply. This position also is useful if you have shortness of breath following exercise or other activities that place constraints on your breathing.

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