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Breathe easier with these simple lung exercises

woman exhales a breath

Not only can pursed-lip breathing help improve your lung health, it can also help you relax.

As medical experts learn more about the coronavirus – how it works, how to treat it and how to prevent it – many unknowns remain a mystery.

However, one of the impacts of COVID-19 is clear. The virus can cause lung damage and breathing problems that linger. For how long, we don’t yet know.

This should give us cause to pause and assess our own lung health.

“In many cases, lung damage can’t be repaired once it happens,” explains George Schwoegler, manager of Respiratory Services at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. “Pulmonary exercises are important for everyone to maintain as much lung function as possible to help make breathing easier.”

A common technique that respiratory therapists teach their patients is “pursed-lip breathing.” It’s especially helpful for people suffering from lung diseases such as COPD, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis or even COVID-19.

Pursed-lip breathing is designed to improve lung function and breathing at the same time to help you breathe more efficiently. The American Lung Association reports, “Pursed lip breathing should be practiced until it becomes second nature. It’s most effective when you’re focused or relaxed.”

Give this a try:

  1. Sit up straight or lie down with your shoulders relaxed as much as possible.
  2. Inhale through your nose for two seconds. Try to fill your abdomen with air instead of just your lungs.
  3. Purse your lips like you’re blowing out a candle and exhale slowly, taking twice as long to exhale as you took to breathe in.

Repeat this exercise, and over time you can increase the counts from two to four seconds (or more).

In addition to maintaining or improving lung function, better breathing can help to calm our overall central nervous system, which has a relaxing effect on our entire body, according to the American Lung Association.

You might also try what is known as “box breathing,” where you inhale/hold your breath and exhale/hold your breath for equal counts. Or just simply inhale and exhale for equal counts, which is a good technique to help you relax.

Note:  These exercises are best done without a mask or face covering.