Out of Breath? 6 Breathing Exercises to Strengthen Lungs and Help You Breathe Better

Two people practicing breathing exercises on the beach.

You might lift weights to build muscle, play Sudoku to improve your problem-solving, but have questions when it comes to breathing exercises to strengthen your lungs. 

Like your mind and body, your lungs need exercise to improve your lung capacity and efficiency. Breathing is one of those things you probably don't think about much until it becomes harder or impossible to do (as anyone who's ever had a stuffy nose can attest). 

However, breathing exercises are a great way to strengthen your lungs, increase your lung capacity, and help you breathe better overall.

There are many different breathing exercises to strengthen the lungs and help you breathe better. But before we get into those, let's talk about your lung capacity and its limiting factors.

What is Lung Capacity?

Your lung function is to transport oxygen throughout your body when you inhale and remove carbon dioxide when you exhale. Your lung capacity is the total amount of air that your lungs can hold. Your lung capacity slowly decreases as you age, starting in your mid-twenties. 

So if you've ever wondered why babies and kids have such robust lung capacities when they get noisy, this is why!

What Limits Lung Capacity?

Aging will always reduce your lung capacity, but lung disease can further reduce your natural lung capacity. Some of these include:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)— most often caused by smoking and tobacco use.
  • A lung infection, also known as pneumonia.
  • Bronchitis— the inflammation of the bronchial tubes in your lungs, which carry air to and from your lungs.
  • Lung cancer
  • Pulmonary fibrosis— a lung condition where your lung tissue becomes scarred and damaged, making it harder for you to breathe. [1]

Regardless of your ailments or setbacks, you can still take effective measures to breathe more effectively. All it takes is a little exercise.

6 Breathing Exercises to Strengthen Lungs and Breathe Easier

While regular exercise and physical activity help keep your body active and healthy, practicing lung exercises regularly can increase your lung capacity and improve pulmonary function and lung health.

Here are six breathing exercises you can try for healthy lungs:

1. Belly Breathing

Also known as diaphragmatic breathing, this lung exercise engages your diaphragm— located around your belly— to help strengthen your lungs. Your diaphragm is a thin muscle that separates your belly from your chest. When you inhale, it creates a vacuum-like effect that pulls air into your lungs. And when you exhale, this muscle pushes air out of your lungs.

This deep breathing exercise helps strengthen your diaphragm and can be especially helpful for people with COPD because it can help strengthen their weakened diaphragms.

Here's how to practice belly breathing:

  • Find a comfortable place to sit down or lie back. Relax your shoulders.
  • Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest.
  • Inhale through your nose for two seconds. Pay attention to how the air moves into your abdomen.
  • Exhale for two seconds through pursed lips while gently pressing your abdomen.
  • Repeat as needed.

2. Pursed Lip Breathing

This breathing technique helps slow breathing down and keeps your airways open. This improves lung function and makes the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide when you breathe more efficient.

Pursed lip breathing is a straightforward technique you can practice anywhere. Here's how to get started:

  • Slowly inhale through your nose.
  • Purse your lips.
  • Exhale as slowly as possible through your pursed lips. This should take at least twice as long as it took you to inhale.
  • Repeat as needed.

3. Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate nostril breathing is a technique used in yoga or meditation to help calm your mind and relax. This yogic breathing also has a positive effect on your lung function. One study found that swimmers who practiced yogic breathing improved their respiratory endurance. [2]

Respiratory endurance is the ability of your body to perform higher-intensity physical activity for longer periods. While more research is needed on the topic, this is an excellent breathing technique for your body and mind.

Before practicing alternate nostril breathing, you want to find a comfortable place to sit with your legs crossed. Then you can get started.

  • Start by placing your left hand on your left knee, and move your right hand towards your nose.
  • Exhale completely, and then close your right nostril with your right thumb.
  • Inhale through your left nostril, then close your left nostril with your fingers.
  • Open your right nostril, and exhale through that side.
  • Inhale through your right nostril, and then exhale through the left.
  • Repeat this cycle for up to 5 minutes— always finishing by exhaling on the left side.

4. Buteyko Breathing

Ukrainian doctor Konstantin Butekyo created the Butekyo Breathing Technique (BBT) during the 1950s. This breathing technique helps you breathe more slowly, deeply, and gently through breath-holding exercises that help improve your breathing rhythms.

There are two ways to practice this technique— the control pause, and the maximum pause.

Before you begin, find a comfortable place to sit with an upright posture. Relax your diaphragm, chest, and belly, and breathe normally for a few minutes.

Control Pause

  • After one more exhale, hold your breath. Plug your nose with your thumb and your index finger.
  • Hold this breath until you feel the need to breathe again. Inhale.
  • Breathe normally for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat as needed.

Maximum Pause

  • Hold your breath after one last exhale. Plug your nose with your thumb and your index finger.
  • Hold your breath for as long as possible. This is typically twice as long as it is for the control pause.
  • Inhale once you've reached a point of moderate discomfort.
  • Breathe normally for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat as needed.

Note: Always breathe through your nose with this breathing technique. If you experience any discomfort, anxiety, or shortness of breath, stop what you are doing and breathe normally.

5. The Wim Hof Method

This breathing exercise was created by Dutch athlete Wim Hof, who is often called "The Iceman" because of his commitment to using cold therapy for health and wellness. As the name implies, cold therapy exposes your body to temperatures for several minutes to promote healing.

This breathing technique is often taught in conjunction with cold therapy. However, if you're not “chill” with the idea of cold therapy, you can practice this breathing technique without it.

This technique is intended to help increase oxygen levels and help you develop greater control over your body for better overall health.

Sound complicated? It's actually more straightforward than you may expect.

  • First, take a deep breath in through your nose.
  • Slowly exhale through your mouth.
  • Repeat for 30 breaths.
  • On the 30th breath, exhale 90 percent of your breath and hold this for as long as possible.
  • When your body encourages you to take a deep breath, hold it for 15 seconds before you exhale.
  • Repeat this cycle two more times.

With this breathing technique, your diaphragm should be engaged and you should feel your breaths in your lower lungs. And while mouth breathing is typically not something you should do, it's okay to mouth breathe for this technique if you're unable to breathe through your nose.

6. SinuSonic

The SinuSonic device helps you breathe better and clear nasal congestion, all without drugs, nasal irrigation, or complicated breathing techniques. All it takes is two minutes a day, breathing normally.

SinuSonic combines gentle acoustic vibration and light pressure to open your airways naturally. The device's flutter valve provides gentle resistance as you breathe, which can help strengthen your lungs and allow you to breathe more efficiently.

Research has found that SinuSonic helps improve airflow and can help increase lung volume. And if you're a singer or an athlete, using SinuSonic before practice or performances can help you open your airways for better nasal breathing when you need it!

Need to Catch Your Breath? Try SinuSonic!

It's important to exercise your body and mind to keep them working at their best. Your lungs are no different— if you don't think that you're breathing as well as you should be, then these techniques may be a breath of fresh air!

When it comes to breathing exercises to strengthen lungs, you can try plenty of options. Sometimes the simplest technique may be the most effective option. SinuSonic packs a strong punch when it comes to helping you breathe better— no difficult techniques or guided lessons are needed.

Want to breathe better? Try SinuSonic and breathe a sigh of relief!

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  1. "Pulmonary Fibrosis." Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 6 Mar. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pulmonary-fibrosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353690.
  2. Hakked, Chirag Sunil, et al. "Yogic Breathing Practices Improve Lung Functions of Competitive Young Swimmers." Elsevier, Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 30 June 2017, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0975947616300675?via%3Dihub.