This page describes breathing exercises which may help you to clear excess sputum and improve your lung function more effectively.

Breathing exercise

The Active Cycle of Breathing Techniques (ACBT) can be very helpful for clearing sputum and making breathing easier. If done regularly, this simple exercise will help you manage your condition.

Within the PDF below, see Figure 1: The Active Cycle of Breathing Techniques

Complete the exercise in the following order:

  1. Breathing control
    1. Settle yourself in a relaxed position; sitting or lying on your side.
    2. Make sure your back is supported.
    3. Keep your upper chest and shoulders relaxed.
    4. Rest your hand on the top of your stomach. Feel your stomach rising under your hand as you breathe in and falling under your hand as you breathe out.
    5. Concentrate on the lower part of your chest moving rather than the upper part.
    6. Breathe at a rate which feels comfortable, it will slow down as control is regained.
    7. With practice, breathing control will become easier. You will then be able to use this method at rest, on exertion or when you feel especially breathless.
  2. Long deep breaths
    1. Take a slow, long breath in through the nose, hold for a couple of seconds and breathe out gently through your nose or mouth. Repeat this 3 or 4 times.
    2. Repeat relaxed breathing.
  3. Huffing
    1. 1 or 2 huffs (imagine steaming up your glasses) followed by a cough.
    2. Do not force your cough.
    3. Repeat relaxed breathing.

Continue the exercise cycle until the sputum is ready to be cleared.

Repeat as often as necessary until your chest feels clear and your breathing is easier.

Contact information

Therapy Department

Cheltenham General Hospital

Tel: 0300 422 3040

Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm

Gloucestershire Royal Hospital

Tel: 0300 422 8527

Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm

Further information

British Lung Foundation

Helpline: 03000 030 555


Printable version of this page

Breathing exercises for chest clearance Department: Physiotherapy Review due: July 2024 PDF, 513.2 KB, 3 pages
Reference number GHPI0346_07_21
Department Physiotherapy
Review due July 2024