What are the Best Ways to Improve Breathing?

Erin J. Hill

Many people do not practice the correct breathing techniques for optimum comfort and health but never realize their mistake. Although breathing is something that comes naturally, there are ways to improve breathing in both form and quality. Having correct posture is the first step, as this gives the lungs more room to expand in the chest. To stand correctly, the spine should go straight up and down and the ears should be directly in line with the shoulders. Once this step is mastered, there are several exercises which may help improve breathing.

Quitting smoking may help improve breathing.
Quitting smoking may help improve breathing.

The first thing to remember is to take deep breaths that raise the stomach. Many people breathe using their chest, but it is important to pay close attention to the motion of the abdomen. When the diaphragm fills with air, the stomach extends outward and the chest doesn’t move much at all. During exhalation, the stomach should go back in. This should be practiced daily until full diaphragm-supported breathing is second nature.

It is important to take deep breaths that raise the stomach.
It is important to take deep breaths that raise the stomach.

To practice this breathing technique, it is a good idea to pay close attention to each breath for a set amount of time each day. Holding one hand over the abdomen and taking deep, slow, breaths will help one to become more in tune with his or her body in order to ensure proper abdominal breathing. This should be practiced standing upright, while sitting, and while lying down on the back.

Maintaining a healthy weight and working out regularly are also good ways to improve breathing. Doing cardiovascular exercises causes the heart rate and breathing rate to increase, and slowly allows the lungs to take in more oxygen-rich air. Keeping excess fat at bay is also important because belly bulge can put added strain on the chest wall and lungs, thus keeping them from fully expanding with each breath.

There are other factors which can help to improve breathing which are not directly related to technique. Eating fruits and vegetables has been proven to enhance breathing, for instance. Avoiding harmful fumes and cigarette smoke are also important steps, as these substances can cause irreparable damage to the lung tissue.

Breathing may also be improved by avoiding restrictive clothing and by making sure the body is relaxed and tension free as much as possible. Anything which restricts the comfort of the abdomen as it extends during a breath will make allowing full breaths harder to do. This is counterproductive, especially for those who are still in the process of learning proper breathing techniques.

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Discussion Comments


@Iluviaporos - We actually got taught a few breathing techniques when I was at high school and they've really helped me over the years. I find whenever I'm working and my mind starts to drift, taking a few deep breaths can help me to re-focus on what I'm supposed to be doing.


@KoiwiGal - It's weird once you quit smoking how narrow your breathing actually was when you were doing it. I also noticed my sense of smell came back after a while. I found that deep breathing exercises helped me stop, but it was more about calming down anxiety than about associations. I would want to smoke whenever I got anxious or stressed and deep breathing helps to control that. It probably also helps a little that it's the same sort of action as smoking, even if it has the complete opposite result.


I actually used my breathing to help myself quit smoking a while ago. I used to smoke quite a lot, up to two packs per day sometimes and it really did a number on my lungs. I might as well have had asthma, my breathing was so bad at times.

When I decided to quit, I also decided that I would start exercising as well and hopefully that would help my lungs to clear. What I didn't realize was that it was actually a good way to stop cravings for cigarettes as well.

I would do something strenuous like climbing a hill or running until I could hardly breathe and then at the point where I was most uncomfortable, I would imagine trying to smoke while feeling like that.

I quickly developed bad associations with smoking which must have helped because I haven't smoked in several years now. I don't even crave it anymore, so I think the exercise also helped to get rid of all the nicotine in my system.

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