Return to Previous Page

Breathing: Pursed Lip/Diaphragmatic Exercises

1. Pursed Lip Breathing

You have probably noticed when shortness of breath occurs to an athlete during periods of exercise, they tend to blow the air out of their mouths by puffing out their cheeks.

You may have done this as well when you have exerted yourself. This is a normal response to shortness of breath, and it provides for a quick and easy way to improve breathing patterns.

What Does It Do?

       Improves ventilation

       Decreases air trapping in the lungs

       Decreases the work of breathing

       Improves breathing patterns

       Relieves shortness of breath

       Causes general relaxation


       Prolongs exhalation slows down the breathing rate.

       Causes a slight back pressure in the lungs that keeps the airways open longer.

       Improves the movement of old air out of the lungs and allows for more new air to get into the lungs.


REMEMBER Exhalation must be 3-4 times longer than inhalation, so do not force the air out.

1.    Sit down but sit up straight, relaxed.

2.    Breath in, preferably through the nose.

3.    Purse lips slightly (as if to whistle).

4.    Breath out slowly through pursed lips.

5.    Do not force the air out.

Practice this procedure 4-5 times a day initially to get the correct breathing pattern. You should utilize pursed lip breathing when you are experiencing shortness of breath either at rest or with exertion, or if you feel nervous or apprehensive.

IMPORTANT You may experience a light-headed feeling while doing pursed lip breathing. This indicates that you are over ventilating yourself and you should breathe more slowly.

2. Diaphragm Breathing

The most efficient breathing muscle is the diaphragm. Many people with COPD no longer use this important breathing muscle effectively. This exercise is designed to help you better utilize this muscle in the act of breathing.

IMPORTANT You will notice an increased effort will be needed to utilize this muscle correctly. You will notice, at first, that you will get tired while doing this exercise. Keep at it, for in a short time you will begin to notice that it will require less effort to breathe, and you will be rewarded by being able to do it with less effort.

What Does It Do?

       Strengthens the diaphragm.

       Coordinates diaphragm movement when breathing.

       Less effort required to breathe.

       Less energy utilized for breathing.


       Correctly utilizes the most effective muscle of breathing.

In the beginning, practice this procedure for 5-10 minutes, 3-4 times a day. You can gradually increase the length of your exercises period and perhaps the effort required by placing a book on the abdomen.

After you feel comfortable with this procedure, practice while sitting in a chair or while standing.


1.    Like on your back in a bed with your knees bent.

2.    Place one of your hands on your abdomen.

3.    Place your other hand or your upper chest.

4.    As you inhale through your nose, make your stomach move out and keep your upper chest as still as possible.

5.    As you exhale through pursed lips, let your stomach fall inward. Your hand on the upper chest must remain as still as possible during the entire procedure.


Check with your physician before beginning this or any exercise program.

To learn more about these special breathing exercises, see the stories listed under Breathing: Overview in the Library Index.

Send mail to: ..... with questions
or comments about this web site.
Copyright 2002-2004 -----
Last modified: January 10, 2004