Fighting Emphysema with Breathing Exercises

If you have emphysema, you're probably wondering how you can improve your breathing and feel better. Your doctor will have lots of good ideas to help, but one thing you can do to supplement his or her recommendations is easy and effective breathing exercises. Too often patients with emphysema stop exercising, and this makes their breathing muscles weak. Breathing exercises strengthen your muscles so that you will get more oxygen, making your breathing easier and more comfortable. Below is information on the three types of breathing exercises.

Traditional Exercise

Any aerobic exercise that you do helps keep your heart and lungs stay fit. You don't have to push yourself at all; this can be a simple walk or swim. Some people even buy a stationary bike to gently ride. The point is to start where you are and build up your strength. Of course, before you begin any exercise program, you will want to check with your doctor to make sure that it will suit your health needs.

"Slow-Your-Breath-Down" Breathing

These next two techniques are even easier: You can exercise your breathing muscles without even leaving your house. The first technique that you can try is "Slow-Your-Breath-Down" Breathing or "pursed-lips" breathing is as easy as it sounds. Close your mouth and slowly draw the air in through your nose for about two seconds. Then you should pucker your lips, making a small "o" shape, and breathe out very slowly. Your exhale should last about twice as long as your inhale. You don't want to push yourself too hard. Think of this as a gentle exercise. Do this at least three or four times a day for about 5 or 10 minutes.

Belly Breathing

Another easy technique to try is "belly breathing," which is also called diaphragmatic breathing. This is actually what is taught in meditation. As a breathing exercise, it's very easy. One way to start is to sit in a straight-backed chair. If you are too uncomfortable in a chair, trying lying down. You want to get your back straight if you can, so some people even lie on a bed or on the floor. Then close your mouth, relax, and place one hand on your stomach. Breathe in through your nose for about two seconds. You will feel the air as it travels through your body and then feel your hand on your stomach rise. Nothing about "belly breathing" is forced; experience your hand rising gently and easily. Then then use the same 'purse-lip' technique, release the air after about two seconds. Your exhale should last about twice as long as your inhale. As you breathe out, feel your shoulders fall very slightly. Remain in the same position without slouching, and feel your muscles relax. Then repeat. Practice this at least once or twice a day for about five minutes.