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Deep Breathing Exercises for COPD

By Kimberly Wonderly

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly referred to as COPD, is a disease that affects the functioning of the lungs and gets worse with time. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “COPD is a major cause of disability, and it's the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 12 million people are currently diagnosed with COPD. An additional 12 million likely have the disease and don't even know it.” While there is no cure for this disease, learning effective breathing exercise can help you feel better, stay more active and slow the progress of the disease.

Pursed Lip Breathing

This exercise is especially beneficial when you are out of breath. According to the University of Michigan Health System, you need to relax your neck and shoulders when performing this exercise. Focus on letting your diaphragm and chest muscles do the work for you. Slowly breathe in through your nose for a count of 3. Then, purse your lips as though whistling and blow out for twice as long. Be sure to let the air come out slow and naturally. Do not force it out of your lungs. Continue this style of breathing until you have overcome the shortness of breath episode. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, pursed lip breathing effectively improves the gas exchange in COPD patients and reduces difficulty breathing.

Deep Breathing

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, “slow and deep breathing improves breathing efficiency and oxygen saturation at rest.” The University of Michigan Health System advises doing this exercise in a sitting or standing position with your elbows pulled back firmly into your sides. Take a deep breath in. Hold it for a count of 5. Then, slowly and completely exhale all the air in your lungs.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

The Department of Veteran Affairs states that diaphragmatic breathing is used to try to stop the abnormal chest wall motion experienced by many people with COPD; thus, making breathing easier and decreasing the feeling of difficulty breathing. According to the University of Michigan Health System, this exercise should be practiced while lying on your back with your knees bent and supported by pillows. Gently, place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen, just below your ribcage. Take a deep breath in. While breathing in, focus on making your lower ribs and abdomen rise; do your best to keep your chest as still as possible. Continue to inhale for a count of 3. Then, exhale for a count of 6. By slightly pursing your lips, you can control your exhale more efficiently. Once you can take a dozen of these breaths without effort, try practicing the exercise while standing, and eventually, practice it while moving around.

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