1. Pursed Lip Breathing

You have probably noticed when an athlete has shortness of breath during periods of exercise, they tend to blow the air out of their mouths by puffing out their cheeks. You may have done this as well when you have exerted yourself. This is a normal response to shortness of breath, and it provides for a quick and easy way to improve breathing patterns.

What Does It Do?

  • Improves ventilation
  • Decreases air trapping in the lungs
  • Decreases the work of breathing
  • Improves breathing patterns
  • Causes general relaxation
  • How?
    • Prolongs exhalation—slows down the breathing rate
    • Causes a slight back pressure in the lungs that keeps the airways open longer
    • Improves the movement of old air out of the lungs and allows for more new air to get into the lungs



REMEMBER—Exhalation must be 3-4 times longer than inhalation, so do not force the air out.

  1. Sit down but sit up straight and relaxed
  2. Breath in, preferably through the nose
  3. Purse lips slightly (as if to whistle)
  4. Breath out slowly through pursed lips
  5. Do not force the air out

Practice this procedure 4-5 times a day initially to get the correct breathing pattern. You should use pursed lip breathing when you are experiencing shortness of breath either at rest or with exertion or if you feel nervous or apprehensive.

IMPORTANT—You may experience a lightheaded feeling while doing pursed lip breathing. This indicates that you are over ventilating yourself and you should breathe more slowly.

2. Diaphragm Breathing

The most efficient breathing muscle is the diaphragm. Many people with COPD no longer use this important breathing muscle effectively. This exercise is designed to help you better use this muscle in the act of breathing.

IMPORTANT—You will notice it will take increased effort to use this muscle correctly. At first, you will get tired while doing this exercise. Keep at it, because in a short time, you’ll be rewarded by being able to do breathe with less effort.

Diaphragm Breathing:

  • Strengthens the diaphragm
  • Coordinates diaphragm movement when breathing
  • Less effort and required to breathe


  • Correctly uses the most effective muscle for breathing. In the beginning, practice this procedure for 5-10 minutes, 3-4 times a day.

Gradually increase the length of your exercise period and perhaps the effort required by placing a book on the abdomen.

After you feel comfortable with this procedure, practice while sitting in a chair or while standing.


  1. Lie on your back in a bed with your knees bent.
  2. Place one of your hands on your abdomen.
  3. Place your other hand on your upper chest.
  4. As you inhale through your nose, make your stomach move out and keep your upper chest as still as possible.
  5. As you exhale through pursed lips, let your stomach fall inward. Keep your hand on the upper chest as still as possible during the entire procedure.