Asthma – Key Facts

Respiratory SymptomSimply defined, asthma is a medical condition which affects the airways in some people. These airways are tubes which help us transport oxygen into and out of the lungs.

Breathlessness and wheezing are a couple of the symptoms of asthma. These symptoms differ in severity from person to person. Some people may suffer symptoms several times a week, or in worse cases several times a day.  Asthma can be at its worst during physical activity, when it’s cold, or at night.  An asthma attack is caused when the lining of the bronchial tubes swells up. This then causes the airways to narrow which results in a reduction of air flow into and out of the lungs.  Recurrent asthma symptoms frequently cause sleeplessness, daytime fatigue, reduced activity levels and school and work absenteeism.


  • Asthma is a disease which affects the way we breathe. The condition is a chronic one and affects the tubes that go to and leave the lungs.
  • Over 200 million people suffer from the condition and it is prevalent among children.
  • Countries that have low to middle income are the countries that have the highest rate of asthma related deaths.
  • The biggest contributors to asthma are inhaled substances and particles that cause allergic reactions which lead to irritation of the airways.
  • Asthma can be controlled by using suitable medication. The severity of asthma can also be reduced by staying away from known asthma triggers.
  • People can still enjoy a good quality of life if they manage their condition appropriately.

Asthma is a disease which cannot be cured. However, proper management of the disease can control it and enable you to live a good quality of life. Some symptoms can be relieved by using short term medication. However, anyone suffering from severe asthma symptoms must take long term medication on a daily basis to control exacerbation of the condition. It isn’t just medication that controls asthma. You have to be vigilant at avoiding asthma triggers and anything that will cause the airways to swell.

Creating a personal action plan in conjunction with your asthma nurse or GP will help you manage your asthma. It should include details about your medicine and emergency information but it could also include details of your POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training plan.

Because POWERbreathe is drug-free and has no side-effects or drug interactions, POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training will complement your prescribed asthma medicine, but we would recommend you speak to your medical practitioner before starting any exercise training plan.

Read more about exercise-induced asthma and managing your shortness of breath with breathing training.

Exercises for COPD

copd-sphereCOPD is the short definitions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. In the United States alone COPD is the fourth leading cause of death.  This respiratory illness is primarily caused by smoking, genetics, air pollution and asthma. Secondary smoke and respiratory infections can also occur in COPD.  This disease affects your quality of life as it makes breathing incredibly difficult. However, a regular exercise program can help you manage the disease better as well as increase the quality of life.

Importance of Exercise

Pulmonary rehabilitation and exercise go hand in hand as it improves the overall strength and endurance of the respiratory muscles. during exercise the muscles in the body learn to use oxygen more efficiently which means the lungs don’t have to work so hard.  Another benefit of exercise is that it boosts mental health and help you maintain a healthy lifestyle – healthy weight and blood pressure. exercise also improves blood circulation round your body which helps with your breathing

Begin an Exercise Routine

Anyone who is a COPD sufferer should practice two types of exercise – regular aerobic exercise for general strength and conditioning and exercises to help control and manage breathing. However, it is imperative you talk to your GP before undertaking any form of exercise program. Always start off slow and rest immediately if you experience shortness of breath, chest pain or feel dizzy.

Exercises to Control Breathing

Pursed lip and diaphragmatic breathing help improve your airflow and decrease shortness of breath. Pursed lip exercises are done by breathing in through your nose, pursing your lips as though you’re going to whistle, and then exhaling slowing through your mouth. It should take you 2-4 times longer to exhale than it took to inhale. Separating the chest from the abdomen, the diaphragm muscle is essential for breathing. Learning to properly use and strengthen this muscle can be accomplished by following this exercise: Lay down, put one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest, and inhale through your nose while concentrating on making your stomach move while keeping your chest still. Then exhale through pursed lips, letting your stomach fall inward while continuing to keep the upper chest as still as possible. Regular exercise can help aid you in your COPD treatment and make your quality of life better.



Top tips to quit smoking for a healthier lifestyle

Whether you’re looking to get fitter, breathe better or save some money, trying to quit smoking is a life-changing decision with numerous benefits, especially for your health. This may include preventing coronary heart disease and stroke. Quitting smoking early enough also helps prevent cancers of the lung and upper airways, as well as, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

It isn’t easy and it isn’t fun, but once you’re motivated to stop smoking, the positives outweigh the negatives. Public Health England offer some advice on what works including local stop smoking services, nicotine replacement therapies and stop smoking medicines prescribed by a GP.

Here are a few additional top tips to help you quit smoking cigarettes.

Make a list of reasons to quit smoking

It is always useful to make a list of reasons why you need to stub out that cigarette.

Stay motivated

Stubbing out your cigarette for good has some great benefits:

  • Your blood pressure, pulse and body temperature return to normal within 20 minutes of your last cigarette.
  • Eight hours after your last smoke, carbon monoxide levels and oxygen levels in the blood stream normalise.
  • Your sense of smell and taste is heightened after just two days.

Within three months your circulation will improve and your lung function will be better.

Find other ways to relax

If you find smoking helps you keep calm, find other outlets for your stress and anxiety. Try taking up yoga, meditation and exercise. Breathing exercises can help ease anxiety and keep you calm. By just taking a deep breath, yawn or counting to ten can make you feel instantly calmer. In fact, research shows that a single session of Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) can reduce systolic blood pressure and improve parasympathetic and sympathetic modulations in young smokers.

Furthermore, regular exercise will help ease your nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms as well as improve your breathing technique. Not only that, but regular exercise will help you keep off the extra weight gain that some smokers experience when they quit smoking.

Cut down on caffeine

If coffee is a smoking trigger for you, cutting down on nicotine will make caffeine’s effects on your body more pronounced. However, don’t try to quit drinking coffee at the same time as you are trying to quit smoking as it will make it even harder to stub out that cigarette.

Bin it

As soon as you commit yourself to quitting then you need to bin anything you have that is associated with smoking – lighters, ashtrays and of course any cigarettes lying around.  Give your house a good clean to rid it of the smell of smoke and begin a fresh new start.

If at first you don’t succeed……try and try again

It usually takes more than one attempt to give up smoking altogether. After all it is an addiction. Don’t be disheartened if the first go is not successful. Keep trying and establish why it didn’t work the first time. Then, commit to success the next time.

Finally, the NHS offers stop smoking services to help you quit and on their website you will find contact details for your local stop smoking service.

Breathing techniques and exercises that won’t ruin your voice

voice-exercisesNot everyone knows this, but if you don’t know the correct breathing techniques when singing you can seriously damage your voice and your health. Knowing how to breathe properly and knowing the right vocal exercises can improve your singing.

Anyone who likes to sing – be it in the shower or as a professional will know that singing is based on breath.  The number one rule any singer needs to know is if they want to sing properly then they need to adopt the correct breathing techniques and vocal exercises otherwise they will run into serious problems that could ruin their singing voice permanently.

Music teachers everywhere are always debating what the correct breathing techniques are for singers. There is more than one vocal exercise and breathing technique that is taught across the world and because of this it makes it extremely difficult to tell which breathing techniques are good for your voice and which breathing exercises can ruin your voice.

It is easy to distinguish which breathing exercises and techniques are bad for your voice – bad breathing exercises and vocal exercises will make your throat hurt and feel extremely tight while you are singing. If your breathing technique is incorrect and you start singing you will have a feeling of tension building up in your throat and you will have difficulty projecting your voice. What this results in is un-necessary strain being placed on your vocal cords.

Placing un-necessary tension on your vocal cords and forcing your voice to sing will cause you extreme harm as well as plenty of problems including:

  • Shortness of breath while singing
  • A vocal sound that sounds powerless and weak
  • The inability to reach high notes.

To be able to sing correctly it is not that difficult to learn the correct breathing exercises and vocal exercises. Once you learn the correct process it will be a piece of cake.

Remember the three golden rules and your singing will be perfect, ensure:

  • You are taught the correct way on taking controlled breaths
  • You know how to support that breath; and
  • You know how to keep your throat open and relaxed while doing it.

Inspiratory muscle training for improving your breathing muscles

Conducting relatively simple inspiratory muscle training exercises can allow you to breathe easier as well as improve your respiratory muscles.  Whether you are a recovering patient or fit and healthy individual, carrying out inspiratory muscle training can strengthen your muscles significantly. However, if you suffer from asthma or COPD then these training exercises can aid in building up lung performance.

Diaphragm breathing training

Diaphragm breathing exercises are to help you to use your diaphragm correctly when breathing. It is simple and straightforward to carry out this exercise. Lay down flat on the floor and support your head. Keep your knees bent. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand gently on your rib cage. While you are holding this position breathe in deeply through your nose. By doing this it will cause the hand on your rib cage to rise. Tighten your stomach muscles and slowly exhale, allowing the hand on your rib cage to move down.

Breathing through pursed lips

By breathing while your lips are pursed, each breath will be more effective and your breathing pattern will improve. It is best to sit down or stand in an upright position when doing this exercise. Ensure you are standing in a relaxed position, with shoulders and neck loose. Inhale very slowly through your nose for about two seconds. To exhale pucker your lips and blow out through your lips for about five seconds.

Resistive exercises

Progression resistive exercises can help build the diaphragm muscles. These exercises do this by applying pressure to your diaphragm when it is fully contracted. Laying down straight on a flat surface is the best position for this exercise.  You can create different strengths of resistance by applying pressure through the use of weights and positioning.  The benefits of this exercise will be noticed in the long term as opposed to short term.

Manual Assisted Cough

Although as bizarre as this may sound a manual assisted cough is a good inspiratory muscle training exercise. An assisted cough helps to clear mucus build up in the lungs and also prevents respiratory infections. Lastly assisted cough also builds up your cough strength. This exercise should be undertaken when the stomach is empty or if you feel as though you have mucus build up in your lungs. Take a long deep breath, and then have someone push in and toward the rib as you cough.  Keep a tissue handy as any mucus that comes out can be dispersed of in the tissue.

If you regularly exercise then it is important that you perform a warm up routine. Neglecting breathing exercises correctly can lead to breathlessness. Inspiratory Muscle Training can be used to specifically warm-up these muscles prior to exercise, using a reduced load setting.

Causes of shortness of breath

Many causes contribute to shortness of breath, the most common being underlying respiratory or heart problems. This article provides a look at shortness of breath.


Shortness of breath is also known as dyspnoea and is defined as air hunger, or the sensation of having the urge to breathe caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood. Shortness of breath that is caused by exercise or strenuous activity is relatively normal and is not associated with pathology in healthy individuals. It is when shortness of breath is indicative of a serious, underlying disease that it becomes an issue of significance.


There are a number of risk factors associated with the development of shortness of breath, with smoking the most common factor. Other risk factors include second hand or passive smoke, occupational and environmental exposure and allergies. A genetic history of hereditary heart disease or hereditary lung disease such as cystic fibrosis can also expose someone to episodes of shortness of breath.


Shortness of breath is a common complaint and is often associated with heart or lung problems that are either acute (sudden) or chronic (long-term) in nature. For example, sudden shortness of breath in a reasonably healthy individual may be a sign of pnuemothorax (air between the lungs and chest wall), which is a medical emergency. In a patient who has recently had surgery, sudden shortness of breath may indicate pulmonary embolism (a mass of undissolved matter that blocks the vessels in the lungs), which can also be an emergency.

The inability to breathe comfortably while sitting up may be seen in people who have chronic heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), while complaints of sudden shortness of breath may be associated with a heart attack or congestive heart failure.

Dyspnoea that is accompanied by wheezing is often seen in emphysema, chronic bronchitis or asthma. Moreover, shortness of breath that is noisy may denote an airway obstruction by a tumour or a foreign body. Dyspnoea can also be caused by anaemia, or haemoglobin deficiency, as the body tries to compensate for not having enough oxygen.

Whatever the reason that is producing the shortness of breath it must be determined in order to treat the underlying cause.

Identification of shortness of breath

More often than not people who experience shortness of breath tend to ignore it, thinking that it will eventually go away. However, if this is ignored then it can lead to complications including hospitalisation or even death. It is important that if you are experiencing shortness of breath you seek medical attention. Other symptoms that may accompany shortness of breath include flaring nostrils, sweating, and anxiety.

Shortness of breath should be evaluated by a Doctor. Relief of symptoms, in severe cases, may also be achieved by the administration of oxygen or other medication, depending upon its cause. To conclude, shortness of breath is one of the most common symptoms of respiratory or heart disease and is often accompanied by other signs and symptoms. It is imperative that early recognition and treatment for dyspnoea are paramount to overcome the problem of shortness of breath.

Phil Bradbury – my perception is that my breathing has changed (week 7)

I have just completed week 7 with the Powerbreathe.
At the end of the week I moved up to a setting of 5, still with my 10 breaths at half load, 30 at full load and 10 at half load routine.
I felt able to move the setting up because I was achieving much fuller breaths after a couple of weeks on a setting of 4.5.
My perception is that my breathing has changed since starting using the Powerbreathe,  it feels when I am under high exercise stress that I do breath more with my diaphragm than previously. 
This has made it less stressful.
I have no measure of how this translates into my performance on the rowing machine or bicycle, but it feels better.

Phil Bradbury

Phil Bradbury – My POWERbreathe Training (week 6)

I have just completed week six with the Powerbreathe.
I am still following a pattern of using the Powerbreathe unit in the morning and evening, as I get up and just before going to sleep, I find this is the most convenient for me.
I am still following my regime of doing 10 breaths at half load, 30  breaths at current full load and a further 10 breaths at half load, as I have written previously this seems to enable me to achieve a better overall technique, it feels like a better workout than simply just trying to do the 30 breaths at full load.
I have kept a setting of 4.5 for the second week running, this load is getting easier but not easy so I intend to hold it at this until I am getting a fuller breath on each of the 30.
I think I am starting to feel a change in my breathing when under high exercise stress, I think I am feeling less stress high up in my chest.
Phil Bradbury

Background to my training – week 5 of POWERbreathe

Firstly a little background to my training.


I ride the indoor velodrome twice per week on what is termed ‘structured training sessions’, these session will always include a couple of race situations of all out effort.

I ride on the road twice per week, in winter probably 40 miles per ride, in summer double or sometimes more, we usually end up competing ‘up the hill’ with some high level effort.

Once per week I pilot a tandem with a club that takes non riding children and adults out for half a day, not fast but can be hard work. I use my rowing machine twice per week as a cross training exercise, sometimes for me long rows of 15000m or more and sometimes faster shorter rows, so maybe its a easy recovery day or maybe its much more effort than that.

I do not take part in official competition, my blog will not contain measured differences in my performance, what it will contain is my perception of change.

Two things I am hoping to improve by using the Powerbreathe.

Firstly when I am really trying I push myself to a level at which causes me actual physical and mental distress, I often think, ‘this time I have overdone it, this time I am not going to recover’, gladly I always have. The most distressing aspect of this is a breathing overload, I feel like I cannot get enough air to even begin to recover, and I feel this high up in my chest.

Secondly during winter my chest seems to ‘tighten up’ significantly exaggerating the above. In the past I have been so concerned that I have consulted the doctor and been given lung function tests and stressed ECG tests, gladly both have found nothing abnormal, the doctors response being, ‘act your age and stop trying to compete against younger people’. I was prescribed an inhaler to use before training to ease my breathing, I did try this for a few weeks but I couldn’t perceive any significant difference so at the moment do not use it. So a success for me would be my perception that these two phenomena have changed for the better.

My plan is to consistently use the Powerbreathe as a stand alone training aid, I do not intend to use it as part of a warm up regime because although I do warm up at the start of any exercise it is part of the session, I am not aiming to warm up and then take part in some formal competition, my all out efforts are much less structured than that.

I have now completed five weeks with the Powerbreathe and I have missed only one session during that time. I think it is very easy to use the Powerbreathe incorrectly by increasing the load to quickly and falling into the shallow breathing / panting trap. My technique to counter this is to do 10 breaths at half my current maximum setting, I think this re-establishes a good breathing technique and gets my muscles ready for some higher loads, I then do the full 30 breaths, I then do a further 10 breaths again at half load. I believe the half load breathing reminds me what I should be achieving when doing the full load breaths, so keeping me out of the shallow breathing /panting trap.

With this regime I am now on a full load of 4.5, and I know that this is an overload because in comparison to my half load breathing I am not yet getting full breaths.

So am I meeting my success criteria? I am feeling some changes which I will write about when I am more certain that these are significant and not just because I am ‘on form’.

COPD and coping with breathlessness

COPD-And-BreathlessnessThe full term for COPD is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. COPD as it is known is two long term lung diseases – chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Anyone who suffers from COPD knows the disease makes it extremely difficult for you to breathe. COPD has no cure. However, taking certain measures can help you manage the disease.


Here are some COPD facts about living with COPD, the symptoms of this lung disorder, how you can treat it and what causes it.

If I have COPD how does that affect my lungs

Air is carried in and out of your lungs through tubes called airways.  The earliest tell-tale sign of COPD is when these airways become partially blocked from swelling or mucus build up. This will result in you finding it difficult to breathe.  At the end of the airways are many tiny balloon-like air sacs, which inflate and deflate when you breathe in and out. With COPD, these air sacs lose their elasticity. If this happens it can lead to the collapse of small airways and make it more difficult for you to breathe easily.

What causes COPD

The most common cause of COPD is smoking. The disease will progress much quicker in smokers. Passive smoking is also a cause of COPD.  Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can also be caused by long term exposure to other irritants. These include:

  • Dust
  • Chemicals
  • Air pollution

How COPD is diagnosed

If you think you have COPD you need to seek medical advice. Your GP will check your medical history, take a physical examination and also run some breathing tests.

The first breathing test the GP will run to check if you have COPD is the spirometry test. This is a painless and simple test which involves you breathing into a hose which is connected to a spirometer machine.  This machine then measures how much air your lungs can hold as well as measure how quick you can blow air out of your lungs.

What are the signs and symptoms of COPD?

The most common symptoms of COPD are:

  • A continuous cough that does not disappear
  • Huge amounts of mucus when you cough
  • Shortness of breath at the sign of activity
  • Wheezing
  • A tightness in the chest

COPD treatment

COPD treatment is not a cure. The goal is to ease your symptoms and make your quality of life better. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease treatment will slow down the progression of the disease, prevent or treat any complications and help you breathe more easily. Part of your COPD treatment will be a serious of breathing exercises which will help you to cope with the illness you have.