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Overview of the Respiratory System

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Send securely. Message sent successfully The details of this article have been emailed on your behalf. Reviewed by J. Keith Fisher, M. Table of contents Pursed lip breathing Belly breathing Interval training Tips for lung health Takeaway. Breathing exercises can help improve a person's lung capacity. What do the lungs do, and how do they function?

Understanding COPD

The lungs have many functions in the body and are vital for overall health. Learn more about how the lungs work here. Interval training may be better than steady exercise for improving a person's breathing.

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Please see our privacy policy for more information. Click here to return to the Medical News Today home page. People cannot necessarily change their lung capacity in terms of how much oxygen their lungs can hold. However, they can perform exercises that may reduce shortness of breath when they have a lower lung function than is desirable. An example could be someone who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD. A person should always talk to their doctor before starting any exercise program, including breathing exercises.

This is especially true if they have an underlying condition such as COPD. Pursed lip breathing is an exercise that can help to keep the airways open for longer to help air flow.


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To do pursed lip breathing :. This exercise can be helpful for someone who is not as physically active as some others and may not be using their breathing muscles as frequently. Those with COPD can also benefit from performing this exercise. Belly breathing is an exercise that focuses on targeting and strengthening the diaphragm muscle that allows a person to take a deep breath.

People can follow these steps to accomplish this exercise:.


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This exercise from the American Lung Association helps to improve the rate at which the lungs fill and empty air. A person can practice belly breathing and pursed lip breathing for about 5 to 10 minutes every day to enhance their lung function. For people who have problems with breathlessness and shortness of breath while exercising, interval training may be a better solution than steady-state exercise.

Interval training involves alternating a more challenging exercise with a slower recovery period.

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Examples include walking at a very fast pace for 1 minute, then walking more slowly for 2 minutes. Similarly, a person may perform a weightlifting activity for 1 minute, such as bicep curls or lunges, then step to the side or walk at a gentle pace for 2 to 3 minutes. Whenever a person is exercising and becomes short of breath, slowing down for a few minutes and performing pursed lip breathing can help.

They can continue pursed lip breathing until feelings of breathlessness subside. While lung exercises cannot reverse damage already done to the lungs, they can help a person use their lungs to their best capacity. If a person has symptoms of poor lung health, such as shortness of breath during daily activities, pain when breathing, or a cough that will not go away, they should see their doctor.

The earlier lung problems receive a diagnosis and treatment, the better the treatment outcome is likely to be. Lung exercises can be beneficial to lung function. Pursed lip breathing and diaphragm breathing are two common focuses for people in pulmonary rehabilitation to improve their lung function. Before starting any exercise program, including a lung exercise one, it is best to talk to a doctor to ensure there are not any restrictions or individual recommendations for best results.

Article last reviewed by Fri 23 November Visit our Pulmonary System category page for the latest news on this subject, or sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest updates on Pulmonary System. These include:. Lung capacity declines as you age. Keep your lungs healthy by taking good care of yourself every day.

Eat a balanced diet, exercise and reduce stress to breathe easier. Select your location to view local American Lung Association information near you Enter your zipcode.


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