3 Tips to Improve Your Next Breathing Treatment

Jul 24, 2018 | Blog

The goal of breathing treatments is to maintain and/or improve lung function, increase mucociliary clearance, improve quality of life and improve overall breathing. Breathing treatments often last 20-30 minutes per treatment and 1-3 times per day, depending on who the person is. This takes time out of an individual’s day and adds up over the week. Well, what if we could boost how much you get out of these treatments? What if we could help you improve your next treatment? We can’t guarantee anything, however; we have put together 3 strategies that we have given to our pulmonary clients that have helped them improve their approach to their treatments.


Treatment goals are to help you improve your ability to breathe, right? Well, let’s look at how we can help you target that and possibly improve your quality of life and breathing mechanics.

Number 1: Posture

Your posture directly affects your breathing mechanics. The human body is a fascinating organism. Our bodies are built to do amazing things however, when our body does the same thing over and over again it adapts and can alter our posture. This isn’t a bad thing if you’re are training for a particular goal however, it can directly affect your breathing mechanics if you do not allow your brain to enrich its self with other postures. For example, when you sit at work all day your muscles will adapt to the seated position at which you maintain. That is why it has been recommended to stand up and walk around for a minute every hour when you have a job that is highly sedentary. In the seated position, your hip, neck, and lower back muscles will tighten. These muscles are highly utilized in respiration. When they live in a prolong state of shortening, the brain will tell other muscles to lengthen; hamstrings, glutes, pelvic floor and core muscles, to balance out the adapted seated posture.

This causes imbalances throughout the body and changes your breathing mechanics without you even realizing it. The sitting will cause your head to subtly shift forward, your ribcage to flare up and recruit your lower back, while your neck and chest muscles help low intensity breathing to keep occurring. These muscles are primarily used when we have a higher elevated breathing pattern, so when they are recruited for other jobs, they will become tired and overworked, which causes more tension and stress. Our body’s number one goal is to survive and if we limit its ability to breathe efficiently, it will compensate and use other muscles, such as the neck, chest and lower back muscles to drive your respiration. This can carry over to your breathing treatments and you may not even realize it.

Here is a posture strategy for your next treatment:

Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 7.19.53 PM

Sit up right, with your ribcage subtly tucked down and your knees at a 90-degree angle under a 2-inch block.  Sit in this position for as long as you feel comfortable throughout your treatment.





If you have something to squeeze, Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 7.15.26 PMplace it between your knees and subtly squeeze to increase core activation.






Number 2: Hydration

The adult human body is made up of over 60% of water. The brain and heart are composed of 73% water, the lungs are comprised of about 83% water, and our muscles are comprised of around 79% of water. Now if we are dehydrated, our brain isn’t going to be as efficient at operating and at sending signals to the lungs and muscles for respiration. This could then change our physiological chemistry, making it more difficult to breathe. When something becomes more difficult to accomplish, there is an added stress that is placed upon it to survive.

Glass of WaterThis could decrease our energy levels and make us have to work even harder to breathe, all just because we are dehydrated. We always recommend drinking water throughout the day, from the moment you get up, to 30 minutes before you go to bed. Try having a glass of water 30 minutes before your next treatment. It could help hydrate your brain, lungs, and muscles and keeping your organs hydrated allows them to function at a higher output.

Number 3: Warm Up

When we exercise, we have been taught to perform a 5-10 minute warm up before our workout of the day. The goal of these warm ups is intended to help improve blood flow to our muscles,increase our tissue extensibility, and get our respiration on par for what we are about to accomplish. This same idea and concept can be used for your next treatment. Think of your breathing treatment as if it was your exercise workout for the day. When you breathe in and out, some of your muscles have to contract and shorten, while others have to relax and lengthen.  Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 4.24.18 AMWhen these muscles haven’t been properly warmed up, they may not contract or relax like they would if they were warm. Now, if you perform a couple of your favorite upper and lower body exercises before your treatment, you could put your muscles in a better position to contract and relax to improve your breathing during your treatment. Picking exercises that focus on breathing and muscle tissue stretching are always the best bet. Your muscles connect to your bones and your ribcage is a big component in getting air into the lungs. If you focus on warming up the muscles around your upper body and ribcage, you can get higher quality of ribcage expansion, increasing oxygen consumption and utilization.

We have a great library of exercises and mini warm up routines you can use before your next treatment. Go to our YouTube channel, Cystic Fibrosis Fitness Institute, for more options.

Just remember that everyone is different and will need to approach these strategies differently. These are tips that we have seen help our clients fighting a pulmonary disease. You do not have to use them all to be successful. The biggest thing is keeping it consistent. It is better to focus on one tip for a few weeks and see how it goes for you before you move on to the next one. We cannot guarantee instant improvements after your next treatment, but if you apply at least one of these strategies with consistency, we believe it could help you improve your treatments and quality of life overtime.

More From THE Blog

Complementary Approaches to Clearing Mucus

Complementary Approaches to Clearing Mucus

The clearance of mucus is very important for individuals fighting pulmonary conditions. In cystic fibrosis (CF) and COPD the clearance of mucus is crucial to clearing bacteria pathogens to reduce the decline in lung function. To understand how we can attack the...

Motivating Children/Teens to Exercise

Motivating Children/Teens to Exercise

Intrinsic motivation is something that develops over time. Kids don’t yet have the cognitive abilities to grasp the concept that, “exercising is good for physical and mental health.” The understanding that by “doing something good for your body now, your future self...

Are You Apart of the Morning Crew or Night Crew?

Are You Apart of the Morning Crew or Night Crew?

Improving the Quality of Life in Individuals Fighting Pulmonary Diseases   Exercising is important for everyone. Exercising has many benefits from improving cardiovascular health, decreasing stress, to even improving lung function in cystic fibrosis and COPD....

Optimizing Recovery for CF and COPD

Optimizing Recovery for CF and COPD

Improving the Quality of Life in Individuals Fighting Pulmonary Diseases           The body is a remarkable system that takes time to recover. When you have chronic illness, such as CF or COPD, the recovery time the body needs will be a little different than for a...

3-Tips to Programming Strength Training

3-Tips to Programming Strength Training

Improving the Quality of Life in Individuals Fighting Pulmonary DiseasesStrength training can be a powerful tool to daily living.  Strength training helps improve respiratory function, muscular strength and endurance and it supports your ability to live with using...

Intrinsic motivation is something that develops over time. Kids don’t yet have the cognitive abilities to grasp the concept that, “exercising is good for physical and mental health.” The understanding that by “doing something good for your body now, your future self will thank you,” is far too abstract. Kids don’t live for the future, they live for the here and now.

By the time children are in high school and/or go through puberty, those high order thinking cognitive processes begin to develop. However, social obligations and a sense of figuring out one’s own identify often trump the desire to be consistently active for one’s own physical and/or mental health purposes.

Sports certainly help, as they play a role in encouraging healthy competitiveness within oneself and others, as well as promotes team building and social opportunities that child and young adults actively seek out. However, not every kid plays a sport or has the health opportunities to actively participate in one. So, how do we encourage motivating?


There are two types of motivation: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Some will say, intrinsic motivation is ideal because it creates long lasting effects on one’s drive and purpose to reach a goal. The definition of intrinsic motivation is, “behavior that is driven by internal rewards.” Extrinsic motivation is the opposite. Extrinsic motivation is defined as, “behavior that is motivated to perform an activity to receive an award or avoid punishment.”


When starting to increase your child’s motivation to exercise, extrinsic motivation is the “easiest” way to go. When young, a child/teen is beginning to develop his/her own sense of motivation and enjoyment from exercising, something that is not going to happen overnight. Fortunately, exercising regularly will naturally contribute to developing intrinsic motivation, as it increases the feel-good happy chemicals in your brain (serotonin, dopamine, endorphins). But, habits do take time, so here are three tips to increase your child’s motivation to exercise!

  1. Reward System

There are often mixed reactions to implementing a reward system. However, a reward system is not something to frown about when working on establishing a foundation for positive behaviors. Research has shown that children respond better to positive reinforcements than they do to negative reinforcements.

How to begin a behavior reinforcement plan:

  • For children ages 7-12: Make a personalized goal tracker with your child. For example, if want your kid to do something physically active 3x a week, create a page with three boxes per week to check off after each workout (e.g., can use stickers, a drawing, a penny, etc.)
  • For children 13 and older: they can often keep rack on their own, and independence is key for teenagers and young adults.
    • Each workout = 1 point.
      • It is up to you to decide how often a reward occurs and what the reward will be.
      • Reward types: with your child’s help, create a list of 5 items/things that might be motivating to earn. For example, 30 minutes of a favorite show, a new toy or “surprise box,” staying up later one night a week, choice of a favorite meal for dinner, a new book, etc. The possibilities are endless!
  1. Social Opportunity

As an adult, performing 15 reps, 4x on one exercise is manageable. Our attention is longer. We enjoy isolation more. We have intrinsic motivation or tangible goals set for ourselves, like losing weight. However, children and young adults are heavily socially dependent with shorter attention spans. Their worlds thrive around social opportunities, So, make physical exercise a social experience. Workout with your child, put on a YouTube video and together and complete 30 minutes. Put on your child’s favorite music on in the background and encourage your child to work out for 20 minutes (set a timer). One time a week (or more) invite a friend or sibling, make it an event that can be done inside or outside, and make it fun.

  1. Bring back Play

Which brings us to our third tip: Bring back play! Even if you have a teenager or young adult, play is important to developing a positive attitude towards physical exercise. Play can consist of hiking with friends or family, trying a new activity in your community, and generally, reducing the strict structure around exercise that children and young adults often try to escape as they build independence and autonomy. A majority of the time, exercising can consist of structured exercises catered around a specific goal, however, a few times a month it’s important to switch it up and encourage exploring of physical exercise through unstructured (play) opportunities.



















1009 2nd Street

San Rafael, CA 94901