What Are the Best Breathing Techniques for COPD Management?

January 26, 2024

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a highly prevalent lung condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a progressive condition that slowly damages the lungs. This can often lead to difficulty breathing, hence influencing the quality of life of those affected. Yet, there are ways to improve the condition and manage its symptoms. One of those approaches is adopting certain breathing techniques that help regulate the airflow in and out of the lungs and consequently enhance the overall lung health. This article explores the best breathing exercises for managing COPD symptoms.

Pursed-Lip Breathing Technique

Pursed-lip breathing is one of the most effective techniques that COPD patients can utilize. This method greatly assists in controlling the rate of breathing, reducing breathlessness, and managing shortness of breath, which are common symptoms of COPD.

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Pursed-lip breathing involves inhaling deeply through the nose and exhaling slowly through the mouth, with the lips pursed as if about to whistle. This technique helps slow down the breathing rate and improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs, which can significantly reduce the feeling of breathlessness. Pursed-lip breathing is a beneficial exercise to practice regularly, especially during physically demanding activities, to prevent the onset of breathlessness and maintain control over the breathing process.

Diaphragmatic Breathing Technique

The diaphragm is a major muscle involved in breathing, but many people with lung diseases like COPD may have difficulty using it properly. Diaphragmatic, or "belly" breathing, is a technique that helps to strengthen the diaphragm and improve its function.

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To practice diaphragmatic breathing, one should sit or lie down in a comfortable position, place a hand on the chest and the other on the stomach. The aim is to breathe deeply into the lungs by making the stomach rise more than the chest. This method enables deeper breaths, more efficient oxygen exchange, and can contribute to an overall improvement in breathing and lung health.

Coordinated Breathing Technique

Coordinated breathing is another approach that can be an ally for people with COPD. This technique involves synchronizing the breathing with physical movements or exercises.

Coordinated breathing can be particularly beneficial during physical activities that may lead to breathlessness. The technique involves inhaling just before starting the activity and exhaling during the most strenuous part of the activity. This helps to prevent holding your breath, which can often occur during intense exercises. Coordinated breathing can contribute to better exercise endurance and less shortness of breath during activities.

Controlled Coughing Technique

Coughing is an important reflex that helps clear the airways. However, uncontrolled coughing can be exhausting and ineffective for people with COPD. Therefore, learning to control the cough can help clear the airways without causing shortness of breath or undue fatigue.

Controlled coughing involves sitting comfortably, inhaling deeply, holding the breath for a few seconds, and then producing a strong cough upon exhalation. This technique helps to move excess mucus from the lungs, which can improve breathing and reduce the risk of lung infections.

Regular Exercise and Physical Activity

While not a breathing technique per se, regular physical activity is vital for improving lung function and overall health in people with COPD. Exercise can help strengthen the respiratory muscles and improve the body’s efficiency in using oxygen.

Walking, cycling, and strength training are some of the most beneficial exercises for people with COPD. It is important to start slowly and gradually increase the duration and intensity of the physical activity. It is also crucial to use the previously mentioned breathing techniques during exercise to control breathlessness and make the most out of the workout.

In conclusion, managing COPD and improving lung health involves more than just medication. By incorporating these breathing techniques and exercises into your daily routine, you can significantly improve your breathing, control your symptoms, and enhance your quality of life. Always remember to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen or breathing technique to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your specific condition.

The Importance of Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a comprehensive program for people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) that aims at improving their physical condition and quality of life. This program encompasses patient education, exercise training, nutrition advice, and emotional support. Implementing breathing exercises in this program can significantly enhance its effectiveness and further improve the patients’ health status.

Pulmonary rehabilitation is an essential part of COPD management. It aims not only at improving physical capacity and promoting long-term adherence to health-enhancing behaviors but also at helping patients to manage anxiety and depression, often associated with COPD. One of the main components of this program is exercise training.

Exercise training in pulmonary rehabilitation, especially when combined with the aforementioned breathing techniques, can have a wide range of benefits. It can enhance physical capacity and endurance, reduce COPD symptoms, and improve overall health and quality of life. Studies have shown that exercise can lead to improvements in breathlessness, fatigue, exercise capacity and health-related quality of life.

It is crucial for people with COPD to start exercising at a level that is appropriate for their health status and to gradually increase the intensity and duration of their workouts. Walking, cycling, and strength exercises are suitable for most patients and can be easily incorporated into everyday life. During these activities, using the pursed-lip breathing and coordinated breathing techniques can aid in managing symptoms and enhancing exercise performance.

Meta-Analysis of The Efficiency of Breathing Exercises in COPD Management

A meta-analysis of multiple studies examining the efficiency of breathing exercises in COPD management reveals that these techniques can bring about significant improvements in patients’ health. The benefits of such exercises include enhanced lung function, better control over symptoms, increased exercise capacity, and improved quality of life.

The results of this meta-analysis show that COPD patients who regularly practice breathing exercises, such as pursed-lip breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and controlled coughing, experience fewer COPD symptoms and have better overall lung health. Additionally, these patients also show better exercise performance, reduced hospital admissions, and improved quality of life, compared to those who do not practice these exercises.

Incorporating these exercises into COPD management plans, particularly in combination with regular physical activity and a comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation program, can significantly enhance the effectiveness of the treatment and the patient’s health outcome.


In summary, the efficient management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) goes beyond medication. Adopting and consistently practicing beneficial breathing techniques, such as pursed lip breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, coordinated breathing, and controlled coughing, can significantly improve patients’ lung health and reduce COPD symptoms.

Moreover, integrating these breathing exercises with regular physical activity and within a comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation program can further enhance lung function, control over symptoms, exercise capacity, and overall health and quality of life.

It is also worth mentioning the importance of the results of the meta-analysis, proving the effectiveness of breathing exercises in improving the health status of people with COPD.

Lastly, always remember to consult with your healthcare provider before adopting any new exercise routine or breathing technique to ensure its suitability for your specific health condition. Regularly practicing these breathing techniques can go a long way in managing your COPD symptoms and improving your quality of life.