The Forgotten Exercise

When we talk about rehab, exercising, and getting into shape, the focus is often on the movement of arms and legs and on how we can build muscle, repetition by repetition, to help carry the weight of our ailing lungs and upper body.

There are many products on the market, from treadmills and stationary bikes to elastic bands and hand weights that will aid you in completing your routine. While those are all great ways to build muscle and strengthen the cardiovascular system, it is only part of your workout.

Learning how to control your breathing

Completing a successful workout can be more successful when you gain control over your breath. We would all like more control over our breath, but when you have COPD, it is a necessity.

It’s not just about the breath but also about alleviating the stress and anxiety that struggling to breathe causes. Controlling your breath might be new freedom you haven’t felt since you were diagnosed with COPD.

First and foremost, we must learn how to breathe correctly. Watching a newborn breathe, we see his belly moving up and down with each inhale and exhale. We were born with abdominal breathers, but too many of us are mouth breathers now, especially those with COPD.

This inefficient method of breathing seems to come slowly with age. Now, we must try to get back to abdominal breathing mindfully.

Learning the steps to proper breathing gives you control over your diaphragm, and it is your most important muscle in breathing.

Too many of us with COPD use our neck and shoulders to aid breathing, and it is a habit we must overcome. It is an inefficient way of breathing that leaves most people feeling anxious and unable to relax.

Breathing exercise for shortness of breath

Learning a new skill is fun, and you become a master at it when you practice. Intentionally setting practice time aside each day helps you up your breathing game.

I started practicing while watching TV and immediately noticed my breathing becoming slower. I gained so much control that I could prepare myself for exertion, like going to the washroom or getting something from the refrigerator.

When I continued to practice and practiced enough, this method became my go-to whenever I became short of breath. That is when I knew I was doing it right.

  1. Sit comfortably in a chair. Knees should be slightly higher than hips
  2. Rest your hands comfortably on your knees, palms up to open your lungs
  3. Relax and lower your neck and shoulders. At first, it may hurt but try it anyway
  4. With a closed mouth, inhale deeply through your nose, quickly and deeply into your belly. Hold it for 2 seconds.
  5. Exhale slowly and gently through pursed lips for 5 seconds.
  6. Practice in front of a mirror or take a video to see what it looks like and to enhance how it feels.

It is very important to stop exerting yourself once you get short of breath and to position yourself to do abdominal breathing until your breath returns to normal.

Have you tried this method? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 7th, 2024, Barbara Moore passed away. Barbara’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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