4 MIN. {{tag == 'video' ? 'WATCH' : 'READ'}}

Breathing Exercises

Breathlessness may be one of the possible symptoms experienced by people with interstitial lung disease (ILD), because scarring of the lungs (commonly called pulmonary fibrosis) makes them stiffer and less elastic. It can become harder to breathe in deeply as the lungs are less able to expand properly. This leads to less oxygen in the blood and can make you feel breathless.

It can be frustrating when routine daily tasks that were once manageable start to become more challenging.

Breathing exercises may help improve your breathlessness.

Below are a few simple breathing exercises that may help settle your breathing.

ILD Helpful Hint, Icon
Quick Tip

Be sure to speak with your healthcare team before trying these breathing exercises.

Belly Breathing, also Known as Diaphragmatic Breathing

Belly breathing is an exercise that engages your diaphragm, the dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of your lungs that helps with breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing aims to help strengthen the diaphragm and help you use less effort and energy to breathe.

How do I do it?


Lie on your back with your knees bent and your head supported


Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe
When you begin to breathe, you should feel the hand on your belly move, but the hand on your chest should remain as still as possible


Breathe in slowly through your nose
Your belly should move out toward your hand


As you breathe out slowly through pursed lips
Tighten your stomach muscles to feel your diaphragm fall as you exhale


At the beginning, practice this exercise 3 to 4 times a day for 5 to 10 minutes each time. Gradually increase the time you spend doing the exercise


Blow-as-you-go may be useful for helping you carry out daily activities that make you feel breathless.

How do I do it?

Breathe in before you start the activity, and then exhale as you perform the activity.

For example, when lifting heavy items, breathe in before you lift the item and then breathe out as you lift.

Relaxed Slow and Deep Breathing

Deep breathing isn’t just for yoga or meditation—it may be useful while you’re active too. If you’re not already breathless, use it as soon as you begin an activity, whether that be during small activities around the home or when you go out walking.

How do I do it?

During exertion, try to slow your breathing and inhale more deeply. Breathe through your nose, if possible, or with pursed lips.

Take your time doing and learning these breathing exercises. Don’t try to take on too much at once.

While these exercises are useful, they are not to be used alone for managing your health while living with ILD. Read the other advice in this section for more information on how to take care of yourself while living with ILD.

Make sure that you have spoken to your healthcare team and agreed on a full plan of care with them.

{{tag == "video" ? "Watch Next" : "Read Next"}}

We know how lost you might feel while searching for answers about ILD and how it may progress over time, but we’re here to support you.
Sign up to have information about ILD and how it may progress, including real stories and encouragement from people living with the disease, sent right to your inbox.