Exercises to improve lung function

Updated June 13, 2017

If you suffer from a chronic lung condition, or if you are just looking to improve your lung capacity for sports or athletic events, certain exercises may help. Since your lungs can’t get any bigger, the only real solution is to help train them to expand and take in more air. These exercises are designed to do just that and, in the process, help improve your lung function.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise is naturally designed to improve lung function, according to “Scientific American” magazine. Common exercises such as walking, jogging, swimming or riding a bike—activities that cause your heart rate to rise and cause you to breathe faster—naturally improve your cardiorespiratory function when done on a regular basis. If you’re looking to improve your lung function, pick an activity that sounds fun to you. If you can feel your heart rate increasing and notice heavier breathing, that means it’s working. But don’t push yourself to where you have trouble breathing, and always consult a doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

Pursed lip breathing

Pursed lip breathing helps improve lung function by keeping your airways open longer during exhalation, according to the Ohio State University Medical Center. To perform pursed lip breathing, inhale through your mouth as you normally would. As you exhale, purse your lips together as if you were drinking out of a straw or whistling. Naturally let the air escape out from your lungs and through your lips rather than blowing the air out of your mouth. You can use this technique if you’re performing strenuous physical exercise and you feel short of breath.


Yoga—the practice of moving and holding your body into certain positions while practicing deep breathing—can be an effective way to improve lung function, especially in patients with COPD, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Certain poses can help stretch out your airways and, when combined with deep breathing, help improve lung function when practiced over time. For example, the Salabhasana pose, done by lying prone on the floor and extending the arms and legs out away from the body so they are off the floor, when done in conjunction with deep breathing, can help improve lung function, according to Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America. The Shavasana pose, done by lying on the floor on your back with the arms and legs extended, helps you focus on deep-belly breathing and relaxation.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

James Patterson specializes in health and wellness topics, having written and produced material for the National Institutes of Health, the President's Cancer Panel and an Inc. 500 Hall of Fame company. He is also a former sportswriter with writing experience in basketball, baseball, softball, golf and other popular sports.