Since we are born, the very first thing we do is we breathe! Breathing feeds oxygen to every cell in the body through the lungs and expels out waste carbon dioxide. However, we usually take our lung functions and breathing for granted. We don’t consider the importance of our lungs unless we experience breathing problems, and the COVID-19 pandemic teaches us this!
A lung capacity and volume are the total amounts of air that hold your lungs during inspiration and expiration. Over time, as we age, our lung capacity and functions decrease. Smoking, pollution, and other health problems such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can make it worse.
Though a person unable to control the amount of oxygen their lung can hold, lung exercises provide ways to help your lungs become more efficient at managing airflow and oxygen levels. Here are some basic exercises to improve your lung health along with its functional capacity.
1: Pursed-lip breathing
Pursed-lip breathing exercise is easy and can be done anywhere at any time. This exercise keeps your airway open for longer that facilitates the airflow into and out of the lung. These make it easier for the lungs to function and improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This exercise can be beneficial for people who have less physical activity and not using their breathing muscles frequently. Steps to follow pursed-lip breathing –
- Sit straight — good posture promotes healthy lung movements.
- Inhale slowly throws your nostrils.
- Purse your lips — as if you are pouting.
- Breathe out as slowly as possible through pursed lips.
2: Diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing is one of the best exercises that use a diaphragm, a dome-shaped sheet of muscles present between the chest and abdomen. It is also known as belly breathing as the stomach rises and falls with each breath. It is supposed to be primary breathing, but many of us develop a habit of using neck and back muscles that limit the amount of air that enters and leaves the lungs. Follow these steps to practice diaphragmatic breathing –
- Lie down straight and relax your body.
- Put your hands lightly on your belly.
- Inhale through the nose and make sure your stomach is moving outward while your chest remains still.
- Exhale slowly for about two seconds, and your stomach should move inwards.
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3: Rib stretch
Rib stretch itself suggests what it says, stretch your ribs, which move during each breath.
- Stand upright position by keeping your hands on your hips.
- Slowly inhale air until your lungs fill.
- Hold your breath for 20 seconds or for however long is comfortable.
- Exhale slowly.
4: Yawn to smile
This exercise gives space to your diaphragm to expand and provides strength to the chest muscles.
- Sit upright on the edge of your bed or chair.
- Reach arms overhead.
- Create a wide-stretching to yawn.
- Bring your arms down and finish by smiling for three seconds.
Any activity that works the abdominal muscles also works the lungs. A simple humming can increase your lung capacity. It also forces stale air out of the lungs so more fresh air can enter. It reduces stress and can help the patient remain in restoration mode.
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6: Simhasan or Lion pose
It is a unique pose that requires you to make a sound. The sound created during Simhasana resembles the roaring sound of a lion.
- Distance your knees as far as you can comfortably, and toes of both the feet must be touching each other.
- Move the body slightly forward. Place the palm of your hands on the floor right between the knees.
- Slightly arch the back and move the head backwards.
- Open your mouth and draw the tongue outwards towards the chin as far as you can.
- As you exhale from the mouth, produce a sound of ‘aah’ coming out from your throat.
- Close the mouth after exhalation and inhale.
- Relax the body in the final position.
Benefits of breathing exercises
- They relax your body
- They improve oxygenation
- Helps to reduce stress and increase energy levels
- They detoxify your body
While lung exercises are always good for your health, if you have a chronic lung disease, always consult your doctor before starting an exercise regime. Remember, it’s necessary to listen to your body if you have chronic health problems. Also, you have to practice these exercises regularly for better results.
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