Reviewed by Barry J. Make, MD, Irina Petrache, MD

Learning new breathing techniques will help you move air into and out of your lungs. It is helpful to use effective breathing techniques with exercise to minimize shortness of breath and assure adequate oxygen to your working muscles. Breathing retraining has the added benefit of helping you relax when you are anxious or stressed. Two types or breathing techniques are pursed lip breathing and coordinated breathing with exercise.

Learn more about our pulmonary rehabilitation program.


Pursed Lip Breathing

The purpose of pursed lip breathing is to help keep your airways open. This helps your airways to remain open. Pursed lip breathing also slows down your breathing rate and calms you down.

Here are the steps for pursed lip breathing:

  • Inhale slowly through your nose with your mouth closed; try to take in a normal amount of air.

  • Exhale slowly through your mouth with your lips in the whistling or kissing position.

  • Breathe out for twice as long as you breathe in.

Do not take in a large deep breath. Never try to force out the air.

  Pursed Lip Breathing 1
Inhale 1, 2
Pursed Lip Breathing 2
Exhale 1,2,3,4


Coordinated Breathing

The purpose of coordinated breathing is to help assure adequate oxygen to your working muscles and to prevent you from holding your breath.

Here are the steps for coordinated breathing.

  • Inhale through your nose before starting the exercise or activity.

  • Exhale through pursed lips during the most exerting part of the exercise or activity.

If coordinating your breathing with exercise is difficult, as you perform the movement, count out loud. This helps prevent you from holding your breath. If you become very short of breath, stop the exercise, use pursed lip breathing to help control your breathing, then start exercising again.

Practice these breathing techniques daily so they become routine. When you feel short of breath, anxious or just wound up, use these breathing techniques.

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