Breathing Exercises to Improve Lung Function

Written by cindy hill
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Breathing Exercises to Improve Lung Function
Breathing exercises can improve lung function. (thorax x-ray of the lungs image by JoLin from Fotolia.com)

Impaired lung function can be debilitating, leaving the afflicted person short of breath and unable to participate in common every day activities. For many people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, bronchial dysfunctions, or who are simply trying to improve their breathing efficiency and endurance, breathing exercises can help improve lung function.

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Pursed Lip Breathing

Pursed lip breathing exercises can help improve lung function, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Inhale deep into the lower part of the lungs, moving the abdominal muscles downward as you draw in air. Then, purse your lips and exhale slowly, making a hissing sound, taking twice as long to breathe out as it did to breathe in. This exercise is particularly useful for people with impaired lung function to engage in before doing strenuous activities, the University of Maryland Medical Center advises. Pursed lip breathing creates pressure in the windpipe and upper chest, keeping small airways in the lungs open and preventing them from collapsing.

Play the Harmonica

A harmonica is a small, familiar folk and jazz music instrument played by blowing in or out through a series of adjacent reeds to form different tones. Playing a harmonica makes breathing audible, which helps in learning to control breath, and, it makes the breathing exercises fun, according to the University of Michigan Health System. Their pulmonary rehabilitation class uses harmonica playing as an exercise to improve lung function in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. To use harmonica playing as a breathing exercise, sit up straight and focus on breathing from the belly; concentrate on breathing in and out through each note for an increasing length of time each day, then learn some simple and fun tunes and work towards getting all the way through them without stopping. Practice at least once every day.

Active Cycle Breathing

Active cycle breathing is recommended for clearing secretions in the lungs, but basic active cycle breathing techniques also help improve lung function, according to the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. The first of these exercise techniques to practice is Breathing Control: Relax the shoulders and upper chest area and focus on breathing, at a normal pace and volume, into the lower chest area. Pause very briefly after each inhalation, and aim for a rhythmic, even controlled breathing pattern. The second active cycle breathing technique is Thoracic Expansion Exercises, which expands upon the Breathing Control technique. Take a deep breath in, fully expanding the lungs, then hold the inhalation for 2 to 3 seconds. Let the air out easily without force. Practice these exercises for 10 minutes at a time, working up to 20 to 30 minute daily sessions.

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