Critical in Today’s World: How to Build Lung Capacity
The pandemic has made us realize the importance of our lungs. Patients with COVID-19 infection struggle to breathe because their lungs are affected; doctors are now encouraging everyone to improve their lung capacity, so they can better fight infections like COVID-19.
Our lungs provide the body with oxygen; to ensure the body gets the oxygen necessary to fuel every cell, every organ, we must give our lungs a little daily attention. Without sufficient oxygen, we are more susceptible to respiratory disorders, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Studies show that increasing your lung volume can reduce airway collapse that causes obstructive sleep apnea. These studies also show that maximized lung volume lowers the air pressure level necessary to treat OSA -- and even reduces the severity of the disorder.
However, we must do more than everyday breathing, to keep oxygen flowing through the body at peak levels, experts say. Like the rest of the body, lungs thrive on movement and activity.
You need to challenge the lungs with more intense activity. This will build lung capacity plus help your lungs cleanse themselves, to counteract the build-up of toxins and tar in the lungs caused by environmental pollutants, cigarette smoke and allergens.
7 ways to build lung capacity
#1 - Diaphragmatic breathing
This is also called “belly breathing,” and engages the diaphragm, which does the most work when it comes to breathing. People with respiratory problems can benefit greatly from this practice.
Sit down or lie down; relax your shoulders.
Place one hand on your belly, the other on your chest.
Inhale through your nose for 2 seconds; feel the air move into your abdomen.
Purse your lips, breathe out for 2 seconds while pressing on your abdomen.
#2 - Simple deep breathing
Deep breathing can get you closer to reaching your lungs' full capacity. Slowly inhale, consciously expanding your belly -- then expanding your ribs. Allow the upper chest to expand.
Then exhale as completely as possible -- letting the chest fall and bringing the stomach muscles in to expel the last bit of air.
#3 - "Count" your breaths
Increase the length of your inhalations and exhalations. Start counting how long a natural breath takes. If your inhale takes a count of five, use a count of 5 to exhale. Then, add one more count to each inhale and exhale -- and continue increasing while it still feels comfortable. End the exercise when you start to strain.
#4 - Straighten your posture
Your lungs need plenty of room to function well, so your posture may need adjustment to create that room. Occasionally, sit tall and reach overhead -- to make more room for your lungs. Or lean back slightly in a stable chair, breathing deeply.
# 5 - Stay hydrated
Water is very important for your entire body, including your lungs. When you stay hydrated during the day, you help keep the mucosal lining of the lungs thin. This thin lining helps the lungs function better.
# 6 - Move!
Moderately intense activity -- on a regular basis -- is great for lungs. You’ll have healthier lungs, a healthier heart and a better mood. Aim for at least 20 minutes daily -- a bike ride or brisk walk.
# 7 - Laugh!
Laughing works the abdominal muscles and increases lung capacity. Laughing helps clear out your lungs as you force stale air out, allowing fresh air into the lungs.
Look for a breathing club
If lung problems prevent you from getting active, join a breathing club. These are support groups for people who have lung and breathing problems. You’ll get coaching in breathing techniques, as well as encouragement to improve your health and quality of life.
Visit the American Lung Association website or call (800) LUNG-USA (586-4872) to find one near you.