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5 Breathing Exercises for COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

A health condition that affects an individual’s ability to breathe well, often associated with other conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Symptoms include: wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and large amounts of mucus that collect in the lungs.

Symptoms can worsen with time, but practicing breathing exercises can help you to manage them. 

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5 Breathing Exercises for COPD

5 Breathing Exercises for COPD

https://www.healthline.com/health/copd/breathing-exercises

healthline.com

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Key Ideas

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

A health condition that affects an individual’s ability to breathe well, often associated with other conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Symptoms include: wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and large amounts of mucus that collect in the lungs.

Symptoms can worsen with time, but practicing breathing exercises can help you to manage them. 

Pursed lip breathing

  1. While keeping your mouth closed, take a deep breath in through your nose, counting to 2. The breath does not have to be deep. 
  2. Put your lips together as if you are starting to whistle or blow out candles on a birthday cake. This is known as “pursing” your lips.
  3. While continuing to keep your lips pursed, slowly breathe out by counting to 4. Don’t try to force the air out, but instead breathe out slowly through your mouth.

Pursed lip breathing benefits:

  • It’s been shown to reduce how hard a person has to work to breathe.
  • It helps release air trapped in the lungs.
  • It promotes relaxation.
  • It reduces shortness of breath.

Practice it 4 to 5 times per day, daily.

Pursed lip breathing is best for performing strenuous activities, such as climbing stairs.

Coordinated breathing

  • Inhale through your nose before beginning an exercise.
  • While pursing your lips, breathe out through your mouth during the most strenuous part of the exercise. An example could be when curling upward on a bicep curl.

Coordinated breathing can be performed when you’re exercising or feeling anxious.

Deep breathing

  1. Sit or stand with your elbows slightly back. This allows your chest to expand more fully.
  2. Inhale deeply through your nose.
  3. Hold your breath as you count to 5.
  4. Release the air via a slow, deep exhale, through your nose, until you feel your inhaled air has been released.

Deep breathing prevents air from getting trapped in your lungs, which can cause you to feel short of breath. As a result, you can breathe in more fresh air.

Huff cough

  1. Place yourself in a comfortable seated position. Inhale through your mouth, slightly deeper than you would when taking a normal breath.
  2. Activate your stomach muscles to blow the air out in three even breaths while making the sounds “ha, ha, ha.” Imagine you are blowing onto a mirror to cause it to steam.

A huff cough should be less tiring than a traditional cough, and it can keep you from feeling worn out when coughing up mucus.

Diaphragmatic breathing

  1. While sitting or lying down with your shoulders relaxed, put a hand on your chest and place the other hand on your stomach.
  2. Take a breath in through your nose for 2 seconds, feeling your stomach move outward. You’re doing the activity correctly if your stomach moves more than your chest.
  3. Purse your lips and breathe out slowly through your mouth, pressing lightly on your stomach. This will enhance your diaphragm’s ability to release air.
  4. Repeat the exercise as you are able to.

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Diaphragmatic breathing

This is also known as belly breathing:

  • Relax your shoulders and sit back or lie down.
  • Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest.
  • Inhale through your nose for 2 seconds, feeling the air move into your abdomen and feeling your stomach move out. Your stomach should move more than your chest does.
  • Breathe out for 2 seconds through pursed lips while pressing on your abdomen.
  • Repeat.
Pursed-lips breathing

It slows down your breathing, making it easier for the lungs to function and improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide:

  • Inhale slowly through your nostrils.
  • Purse your lips, as if pouting or about to blow on something.
  • Breathe out as slowly as possible through pursed lips. This should take at least twice as long as it did to breathe in.
  • Repeat.

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Practicing deep “belly breathing” can reduce the stress on the supporting ligaments of the diaphragm and can help relieve side stitches. 

Belly breath: Lie down on the floor and place a hand on your belly. Breathe deeply. If you feel your hand rise and fall slightly with your breathing, you’re belly breathing. If your chest is moving instead of your stomach, you’re not breathing deeply enough, and need to adjust.  

Breathing Techniques for Increased Energy
  1. Sit up tall, and relax your shoulders. 
  2. Keep your mouth closed and inhale rapidly through your nose with quick, short breaths (exhale quickly as well). 
  3. Try doing that for about 10 seconds
  4. Take a 15-30 second break and breathe normally. Repeat several times.

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Common symptoms: chest tightness and shortness of breath. But these are also common symptoms of anxiety.

People with anxiety may continue to worry that they are getting sick, even if they...

Anxiety chest tightness

If you are experiencing chest tightness or shortness of breath now, ask yourself first:

  • Are you someone with a history of anxiety, especially if it is tied to health concerns?
  • If yes, did your symptoms show up while reading news about the virus?
  • Do you find it hard to focus on other things?

Paying too much attention is called hypervigilance and body scanning. It is associated with anxiety.

Anxiety causes shortness of breath

The brain is very powerful. We can see a positive pregnancy test and immediately develop morning sickness. Anxious people can read about the shortness of breath and instantly develop it.

However, shortness of breath is also tied to the way anxious people breathe. Anxious people breathe fast and too shallow. They blow off too much CO2, which makes them feel dizzy and makes their chest feel tight.

To alleviate the symptoms, breathe in slowly through your nose, count to four seconds, and then breathe out slowly through pursed lips. It will normalize your CO2 levels.

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Sama Vritti or “Equal Breathing”

How it’s done:  Inhale for a count of 4, then exhale for a count of 4, all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath. Once you manage it, you can go up to a c...

Abdominal Breathing Technique
How it’s done: With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. The goal: 6 to 10 deep, slow breaths per minute for 10 minutes each day to experience immediate reductions to heart rate and blood pressure.

When it works best: Before an exam, or any stressful event.

Nadi Shodhana or “Alternate Nostril Breathing”

How it’s done: Starting in a comfortable meditative pose, hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb and exhaling through the left nostril.

When it works best: Crunch time, or whenever it’s time to focus or energize.

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It has been linked to improved cognitive performance, lower stress levels, and lower blood pressure.

Breathing and yoga
Belief in the benefits of controlled breathing goes back centuries.

Central to ancient Hindu philosophy was prana, described as vital “airs” or “energies” flowing through the body. Stemming from that belief, yoga was built on pranayama or breath retention. 

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A perfect ‘slow’ breath that creates profound effects in our body and mind is this: 5.5 seconds inhaling, followed by 5.5 seconds of exhaling. This can be practiced for a few minutes, or even an hour.

The heart, lungs and other organs benefit greatly, and the imbalances are restored to an extent.

Shallow breathing

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Controlled breathing

... is the fastest, most effective way to trigger the relaxation response, enabling you to think more clearly and perform better under pressure.

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The Navy SEALs use 2 breathing techniques that force the body into a more relaxed state when they’re in a high-pressure situation:

  • Tactical breathing
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Mindful Wakeup
Mindful Wakeup

First thing in the morning:

  • Close your eyes and connect with the sensations of your seated body.
  • Take three long, deep, nourishing breaths—breathing in through your nose and out ...
Mindful Eating
  • Breathe before eating. 
  • Listen to your body and measure your hunger.
  • Eat according to your hunger. You can more mindfully choose what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. 
  • Practice peaceful eating. It’s not easy to digest or savor your food if you aren’t relaxed.
  • If you don’t love it, don’t eat it. Make a mindful choice about what to eat based on what you really enjoy.
Mindful Pause
  • Trip over what you want to do. If you intend to do some yoga or to meditate, put your yoga mat or your meditation cushion in the middle of your floor.
  • Refresh your triggers regularly - add variety or make them funny so they stick with you longer.
  • Create new patterns. You could try a series of “If this, then that” messages to create easy reminders to shift into slow brain.

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A panic attack

The current pandemic is affecting the entire globe. As a result, many people may be experiencing panic attacks for the first time.

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The body's response

A perceived threat may activate the body's physiological "fight or flight" response, similar to what your body would do if you're near a tiger. Your heart starts racing and pumping blood, so your muscles have the fuel to run or fight. 

Panic attacks are relatively common. One in four Americans will have at least one panic attack in their lives. But the pandemic seems to be causing many people to suffer panic attacks within a short time.

Panic attack symptoms

The tightening of the chest and breathing difficulties are often confused for symptoms of the new virus.

Panic attacks come on suddenly and typically last only 15 to 20 minutes, while symptoms of the virus emerge over a few days. With the virus, you will also have other symptoms, like a fever and a cough.

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