• Pursed lip breathing is an exercise designed to strengthen lungs and prevent shortness of breath.
  • Pursed lip breathing is especially helpful for those with COPD and asthma. 
  • Practice pursed lip breathing daily and you should see benefits in four to six weeks. 
  • Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more advice.

Pursed lip breathing is a breathing technique in which you exhale through puckered lips for twice the amount of time you inhaled through the nose. It has multiple benefits, but the main goal is controlling shortness of breath. 

Unlike some breathing techniques, pursed lip breathing can be practiced daily in any setting, says Nevsah Fidan Karamehmet, a breathing teacher with 20 years of experience and the CEO and founder of Breath Hub.

Here are the benefits of pursed lip breathing and how to practice it for yourself. 

Benefits of pursed lip breathing

According to Fidan Karamehmet, the benefits of pursed lip breathing include:

  • Extends exhalation which can slow the breathing rate to a normal level
  • Eases anxiety by slowing the breath
  • Strengthens the diaphragm which makes breathing less laborious
  • Regulates breathing so it falls into a normal, healthy pattern
  • Helps prevent shortness of breath

Pursed lip breathing can be helpful for anyone but may be especially beneficial for people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) because it helps to prevent shortness of breath.

In fact, a small 2014 study of people with COPD found those with low peak expiratory flow improved their ability to breathe during exercise by over 25% and had higher amounts of oxygen in their blood after practicing pursed lip breathing. 

Further research has echoed these results. For example, a small 2018 study found that pursed lip breathing decreased the amount of breaths people with COPD had to take per minute and lowered their heart rate. These results were attributed to an increase in depth of breaths which helps you oxygenate. 

How does pursed lip breathing work? 

Pursed lip breathing is a relatively simple technique to try. Here are the steps to practice it:

  1. Sit upright with your neck and shoulders relaxed.
  2. Take a breath in through your nose for two seconds.
  3. Pause and purse the lips slightly into a pucker.
  4. Exhale through the mouth for four seconds.

Insider’s takeaway 

Pursed lip breathing is a simple technique that can have tremendous benefits, such as calming your mind and increasing the length of your exhalations. You can practice it as often as you like. However, if you feel the need to exhale more frequently, it may be a sign of a respiratory condition, says Fidan Karamehmet. In this case, consult your doctor for more information.

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