Have you ever embarked on an exercise program – or tried to take the stairs at the office – just to almost collapse halfway because your chest become tight? If you’ve ever exercised with a group and had to slow down because you were huffing and puffing so hard, you’ll know what I mean.
Your lungs are a crucial element of your respiratory system. This organ works with your heart, blood vessels and tissues to help you bring vital oxygen to your cells. It helps you inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide waste. But did you know, your lungs also support your immune function? It’s important that you do everything in your power to keep your lung function optimal.
How to Breathe Better
If you want to breathe better – either during exercise or just in general – there are many things you can do to improve your lung function.
- Breathe Deeply
It seems a redundant statement, but most of us actually need to be told to BREATHE. When we become preoccupied with the day’s stresses, we subconsciously tense our shoulders, tighten our back and arm muscles, and start taking short, shallow breaths. We have to learn to breathe better. Here’s how:
- Slowly inhale through your nose until your belly expands (not your chest!) for a minimum count of 10.
- Exhale slowly and completely, allowing your chest to fall, and allow your ribs to contract to the same 10 count.
- Tighten your stomach muscles, allowing your diaphragm to lift as you expel the last bit of oxygen.
Repeat this process 10 times, twice a day.
- Exercise to breathe better
Most reasonably healthy lungs thrive on regular, moderately intense exercise. Activity supports healthy lung function, heart health and mood. When your cardio-respiratory fitness is good, your lungs will have an easier time of supplying oxygen to your muscles and your heart.
Ideally, exercise outdoors so that you can absorb vitamin D from the sun. This powerful vitamin helps reduce inflammation, which boosts lung health. Exercise in the outdoors can help you breathe better.
- Quit smoking
Most smokers already know that it puts them at risk of developing a range of conditions, such as COPD and lung cancer. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor – constricting the blood vessels in the lungs. As a result, smoking narrows the air passages making breathing difficult and can cause chronic respiratory inflammation. As lung tissues continue to be damaged, it can trigger changes that could cause cancer to develop.
If the promise that you will breathe better can’t motivate you to kick the habit, it may be time to speak to a professional who might be able to help you.
- Eat for optimal lung function
Did you know that eating certain foods can help you breathe better?
- Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, kale and cauliflower are rich in antioxidants and chlorophyll that can reduce the risk of lung cancer significantly.
- Bright red and orange vegetables are rich in carotenoids, which are converted to vitamin A and can help reduce asthma attacks. Carrots also contain lycopene that can help reduce the risk of lung disease.
- Omega-3 fatty acids found in flax seeds, nuts, coconut oil, wild-caught salmon can help reduce inflammation – an important factor in maintaining optimal lung function.
- Garlic is easy to consume as it improves the taste of most savory dishes. So indulge all you like, because eating garlic twice a week could reduce your risk of developing lung cancer by 50%.
- Ginger abounds with anti-inflammatory properties that help clear irritants and pollutants from the air passages to relieve congestion and improve circulation to the lungs. It can help relieve chronic bronchitis.
- Turmeric contains curcumin, which fights free radicals and destroys mutated cancer cells. Turmeric could potentially reduce or even prevent conditions such as lung fibrosis, pneumonia, emphysema, asthma and COPD.