Breathing Exercise to Improve Pulmonary Function

Medical conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can all cause your lungs' airways to become inflamed and make it difficult for you to breathe. Damage to your lungs can be temporary, in cases of bronchitis or pneumonia, or permanent in more serious conditions, such as COPD. If you have difficulty breathing, you may be able to improve your pulmonary function with breathing exercises.

Deep breathing exercises improve pulmonary function. (Image: Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Step 1

Improve your pulmonary function and reduce the risk of a collapsed lung with deep-breathing exercises. Lead author Elisabeth Westerdahl reveals in the November 2005 issue of "Chest," that coronary surgery patients have a reduced risk of atelectasis and an increase in lung function after performing deep-breathing exercises. Atelectasis is the medical term for the partial or complete collapse of a lung, caused by mucus, fluid buildup, complications from chronic disease or other factors that block the airways so that no air can get into the lung.

Sit in a chair and put both of your feet on the floor. Take a deep, slow breath, filling your lungs as much as you can while push your diaphragm out as much as possible. After a count of three, exhale slowly. Study participants took 30 slow, deep breaths every hour, but you may benefit from fewer repetitions under the supervision of your doctor.

Step 2

Practice pursed-lip breathing to help conquer a shortness-of-breath feeling that is common to people with lung disease and to improve lung function, according to KnowCOPD, an information service affiliated with the COPD Foundation and the American Academy of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). Sit in a chair and breathe in through your nose for two counts while your mouth is closed. Open your mouth, pucker your lips as if to whistle, and exhale to a count of four. Repeat this breathing exercise for one to two minutes.

Step 3

Breathe consciously from your diaphragm to help boost your pulmonary function. Lie down on the floor or a bed with a pillow under your head and another one under your bent knees. Rest your right hand under your ribcage, on top of your diaphragm and put your left hand on your upper chest. Inhale through your nose, slowly. You should feel your diaphragm and stomach puff up under your right hand. Tense your stomach muscles and exhale through your mouth, pursing your lips. This exercise makes you more aware of using your diaphragm for breathing and strengthens the muscle at the same time. Three or four daily sessions of up to 10 minutes can be beneficial for lung function.

Things You'll Need

  • Chair

  • Pillows

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