Clear mucus from your lungs and bronchi: series of 8 helpful exercises. Part 1


Mucus forming in the lungs during an infection is a normal physiological reaction. The goblet cells produce more mucus so pathogens can be quickly transported out of the system. At the same time, the mucous membranes become swollen because many immune defence cells are being transported to the site of the infection. More mucus and swollen mucous membranes constrict the bronchi, which is also where air flows. So breathing becomes more difficult. By doing certain exercises, mucus in the lungs can be mobilised so that it can be expectorated more easily and quickly. Every week we will present another one of the eight helpful exercises here on our PARI BLOG:

How do breathing exercises work to clear mucus in the lungs and/or bronchi?

We asked Marlies Ziegler this question. She is a physiotherapist who specialises in respiratory physiotherapy and who every day works with patients who have chronic problems with clearing mucus from their lungs and bronchi. So she is well versed in effective exercises for mobilising mucus in the lungs. Not only are these exercises suitable for patients with chronic lung diseases such as COPD, cystic fibrosis, PCD and chronic bronchitis, they are also appropriate for times when the lungs and bronchi are acutely congested with mucus due to colds, bronchitis or pneumonia.

Marlies Ziegler knows from experience that the exercises work. The reason is that “the exercises have a positive effect on the flexibility of the chest, the spine and the ribs. Breathing is altered by this increased flexibility and the mucus can be cleared better.”

To achieve the best possible result, all of the exercises should be synced with your breathing. Syncing one’s breathing and movements can cause fluctuations in the bronchi in time with one’s breathing, enabling the air to get in behind the mucus. The mucus loosens and can be transported out of the lungs more easily. This works even better if you hold your breath for a short time after inhaling (if possible, slowly count to three).

Exercise 1: Bow and arrow while lying down

This exercise mobilises the cervical spine and the ribs. The “bow and arrow exercise” is a good way to prepare your body to do the “screw” exercise. How to do this exercise:


  1. Lie flat on your back.
  2. Turn so you are lying on one side and bend your knees.
  3. Stretch both of your arms out in front of you and up with one on top of the other. Your palms should be together.
  4. Extend your top arm farther out to the front by sliding your top hand over your bottom hand. This stretches the area around your shoulder blades. Inhale deeply through your nose while doing this. If possible, hold your breath for a moment.
  5. Exhale through your nose or through your mouth using pursed lip breathing. While exhaling, pull your top arm back by bending your elbow and moving your hand backward at the level of your chest. This movement opens up your ribcage. Imagine you are drawing a bow (like an archer). During the entire movement your shoulder should stay down, far away from your ear.
  6. Move your elbow and arm back as far as possible. In this last position, let the rest of the air flow out of your lungs.
  7. With the next inhalation move the arm on the top back to the front (as in step 4) and inhale deeply through your nose.

Make sure to synch your movements with your breathing.

Repeat this exercise for 5 to 10 breaths. Then switch to the other side.

About Marlies Ziegler

Marlies Ziegler works as a physiotherapist in private practice in Munich. She specialises in respiratory therapy. She has been treating patients with chronic obstructive and restrictive airway diseases such as asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis (CF) and primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD), for 20 years.

Exercise 2: Screw (supported)

Exercise 3: Fish (activ or supported)

Exercise 4: Diaphragm brige active

Exercise 5: Mini cobra

Exercise 6: Chest rotate and strech position

Exercise 7: Diaphragm pokes

Exercise 8: Pinching yourself

Note: The information in this blog post is not a replacement for treatment. The exercises described should be used as examples for respiratory therapy. PARI recommends that patients always coordinate with their doctor and physiotherapist.

An article written by the PARI BLOG editorial team.

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