Breathing is an involuntary activity and an average person at rest takes about 16 breathing cycles every minute. This would count to approximately 960 breaths per hour, around 23,040 breaths per day and maybe 8,409,600 breaths per year, unless we get a lot of exercise. This is perhaps why that majority of the people do not realize the importance of breathing and the workers behind them – the lungs.
Our lungs require the same deal of care and attention that we give to the rest of our body. It is through breathing that our daily cellular oxygen demands are met. With a drop in oxygen levels in the blood, people fall prey to respiratory disorders such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease etc., eventually leading to heart disorders.
Experts in pulmonology state that lungs thrive on physical activity and an average lung at rest uses only 50% of its capacity. Hence, you need to challenge your lungs to work more in order to make use of its full potential. This engages the lungs in a constant self-cleansing process, thereby counteracting the accumulation of toxins and tar caused by active or passive smoking, environmental pollutants, dust etc.
Here are some tips (which can be followed by healthy individuals as well as those experiencing lung problems) to keep this breathing factory in good working condition all the while.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing Technique
One of the best exercises you can give your dear lungs is diaphragmatic breathing. This exercise makes use of your diaphragm, the muscle that separates the heart and lungs from the abdominal organs. The technique focuses on lowering the diaphragm as you inhale, resulting in an increased oxygen intake and is used by professional singers to enhance their lung capacity to improve their vocal sustains.
- Simple Deep Inhalations
Taking simple deep breaths are the easiest way to help reach your lungs’ full volume. Inhale slowly by expanding your belly, indirectly lowering the diaphragm and expanding your ribs in such a way that you allow the floating ribs to open up. This causes your lungs to be filled with ample amount of air. Once this is achieved, reverse the process, i.e., allow the floating ribs to close in by contracting your ribs and raising your diaphragm, thereby collapsing your abdominal muscles.
- Hold your breath
You can also work on increasing your lung capacity by increasing the time span you usually take for one complete inhalation and one complete exhalation. For example, if usually you can hold your breath for about five seconds after a complete inhalation and five seconds after a complete exhalation, next time, try for a few more seconds longer to fill and empty your lungs. But do not go to that extent where you find yourself being uncomfortable, as this should be a gradual change in the breathing process.
- Improve your posture
Lungs are made up of soft tissues and hence only use the space that is provided to them. So if you slouch, more are the chances that your lungs would be compressed between the rib cage and the diaphragmatic muscle. As a result, your air intake would be considerably lesser than when you sit up tall and straight, making more room for your lungs. So watch out for your posture! You better keep your spines straight to keep your lungs healthier!
- Hydrate your body
Water is a crucial element that constitutes more than 50% of every living cell and hence it is vital to keep yourself hydrated at all times. A higher fluid intake per day would help in keeping the mucosal linings of the lungs thin, as thinner mucosal linings work better in maintaining the functioning of your lungs.
- Laugh your heart out
Laughter is a great exercise that activates the entire body as it exerts adequate pressure on the abdominal muscles, thereby increasing the lung capacity. Moreover, laughter is a great stress buster and improves moods which positively influences your breathing patterns too.
- When to visit your nearest doctor
Do not put off your visits to your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath while performing simple activities
- Pain in the chest while breathing
- Sudden dizziness or blackouts when you suddenly stand up from where you are sitting
- A persistent cough
If you are an active smoker or have a smoker in your group which affects you passively, do not wait to inform your doctor if you experience any of above symptoms.