Breathing exercises

Deep breathing exercises

Performing respiratory exercises will help you prevent respiratory system complications. Deep breathing, coughing, and incentive spirometer exercises may speed your recovery and lower your risk of lung problems, such as pneumonia.

Learn the following exercises and practice them every day before your surgery.

Deep breathing

To deep breathe correctly, you must use your abdominal muscles, as well as your chest muscles.

  • Breathe in through your nose as deeply as possible.
  • Hold your breath for five to 10 seconds.
  • Let your breath out through your mouth, slowly and completely. As you breathe with pursed lips (like blowing out a candle), your stomach should be going in. Exhale twice as long as you inhale.
  • Rest and then repeat these steps with 10 repetitions.

Before and after surgery, your nurse will teach you how to use an incentive spirometer. This is a hand-held breathing exercise device to help you inflate your lungs after surgery. This will help keep your lungs healthy after surgery.


To help you cough:

  • Hold a pillow against your stomach. This will provide more support when coughing.
  • Take a slow deep breath. Breathe in through your nose and concentrate on fully expanding your chest.
  • Breathe out through your mouth and concentrate on feeling your chest sink downward and inward.
  • Take a second breath in the same manner.
  • Take a third breath. This time hold your breath for a moment, then cough vigorously. As you cough, concentrate on forcing all the air out of your chest.
  • Repeat this exercise two more times.

After your surgery, hold a pillow against your stomach to provide more support when coughing.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Understanding Your Colon or Rectal Surgery, can-ah-95399
First Published: 01/24/2013
Last Reviewed: 08/15/2017