Poor lifestyle and the ever-increasing levels of pollution these days have exposed us to a range of respiratory problems. Some of these could be chronic and fatal. The National Health, Blood, and Lung Institute states that chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) are among the leading causes of death.
Your lungs play a key role in respiration. They supply oxygen to the body through the bloodstream and expel carbon dioxide from the blood. Over time, the lungs may lose the ability to function as efficiently as it normally does, thus making it more difficult to breathe. Therefore, it is important that you take necessary measures to increase lung capacity.
Fortunately, there are certain exercises to increase lung capacity.
- Diaphragmatic breathing
The muscle located between the abdomen and chest known as diaphragm plays a vital role in respiration. However, people with COPD tend to rely more on the accessory muscles of the back, shoulders, and neck rather than on the diaphragm. Diaphragmatic breathing helps the muscle to function more efficiently.
- Lie down or sit with your shoulders relaxed, place one hand on your chest and the other one on your stomach
- Inhale deeply through the nose for about 2 seconds and feel your stomach move outward
- Now exhale through pursed lips as you press lightly on the stomach
- Repeat this as you are able to
- Huff cough
Mucus tends to build up easily when you are suffering from a chronic respiratory problem. The huff cough is an effective breathing technique to increase lung capacity. It helps you to cough up mucus without putting too much pressure on your lungs or making you feel worn out.
- Sit comfortably and inhale orally, slightly deeper than you normally would
- Activate the muscles of your stomach to blow the air out in three even breaths as if blowing onto a mirror to make steam
- Repeat the exercise a few times
- Deep breathing
Deep breathing is one of the best exercises to increase lung capacity. It prevents air from getting trapped in the lungs so you can breathe in without difficulty.
- Stand or sit with your elbows placed slightly back – this allows the chest to expand better
- Take a deep breath through your nose
- Hold your breath for about 5 seconds and slowly breathe out through the nose
- Do this for about 10 minutes at a time, 3-4 times a day
- Coordinated breathing
Coordinated breathing is a great exercise for those who experience shortness of breath. The exercise can be performed in two easy steps.
- Take a deep breath through the nose and hold onto it for a few seconds
- Exhale through the mouth with pursed lips
- Do this for about 5-7 minutes
- Pursed lip breathing
This particular breathing technique to increase lung capacity has been shown to promote relaxation and release trapped air from the lungs while reducing symptoms, such as breathlessness or difficulty breathing.
- Inhale through the nose with your mouth closed, as you count to 2
- Follow the same pattern as you repeat in your head ‘one, two, inhale’ – you don’t need to take a deep breath, short, regular breaths will do
- Now put your lips together as if you’re about to blow the candles or whistle – this is called a pursed-lip
- Keep your lips pursed, exhale slowly, as you count to 4 – you should not try to force the air out and slowly breath out the nose instead
- Practice this exercise 4-5 times a day
For some, these simple lung capacity exercises may seem a bit complicated than other exercises. Therefore, it is best that you perform these exercises under supervision.
Useful tips on how to strengthen lungs naturally
Apart from practising these breathing techniques to increase lung capacity, here are a few tips you should follow –
- Quit smoking and avoid passive smoking.
- Avoid exposure to pollutants, dust, and mould.
- Maintain good hygiene to avoid the risk of infections and flu.
- Stay active – get moderate exercise at least 3-4 days a week.
- Use face masks before stepping outdoors to keep yourself from the effects of air pollution.
With these easy-to-practice breathing exercises and certain preventive measures, you can increase lung capacity and keep it healthy for life.