Pursuing a fit and healthy lifestyle involves being mindful of your physical health. This usually involves regular exercise and eating healthy to keep the body in its best shape. But there is one aspect of physical fitness that often gets overlooked: the lungs.
The reality is that there are about 65 million people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Of these, WHO reports that three million die of it each year. As the third leading cause of death in the world, lung health is then a much more pressing matter than it is portrayed to be.
Lung health is an even more important matter now, as severe cases of COVID-19 have been shown to cause lung damage such as scarring and clots. It also usually causes breathing issues, even for mild to moderate cases.
As you grow older, your lungs also begin functioning less efficiently. Healthy practices help to keep them in good shape as you age.
Five Ways to Keep Your Lungs Healthy
With the world slowly entering its post-pandemic phase, here are simple ways to make sure your lungs remain healthy along with the rest of your body.
1. Get vaccinated
The best way to protect yourself from contracting COVID-19 and avoid the risk of getting a lung infection is to be vaccinated against the virus. Vaccines have had a long history of preventing and even fully eliminating life-threatening diseases, and COVID-19 vaccines are no exception to this.
Since vaccinations have been rolled out more widely in the United States, you should sign up for a schedule as soon as possible to minimize the risks of developing severe virus symptoms. You can also view Mayo Clinic’s vaccine tracker to see how various states have been doing and to learn some facts about the existing COVID-19 vaccines.
2. Exercise regularly
Aside from preventive measures, regular exercise is one of the best methods to keep your lungs in good condition. When you exert yourself physically, your heart rate increases and your breathing becomes heavier, which means that your lungs work harder to give you more oxygen.
“Regular” also means that if you are an adult, you should allot at least 30 minutes of your day for exercise for five days of the week. Your activities do not have to be too strenuous, too. Brisk walking, doing your house chores, and tending to your garden also count as moderate exercise.
Aerobic exercises such as skipping rope and running are particularly good for your lungs. Lifting weights also helps condition your breathing muscles to function better.
3. Don’t make a habit of smoking
It is no surprise that smoking is the number one risk factor tied to lung cancer and lung cancer deaths. Smoking also increases your risks of contracting other pulmonary diseases.
When you smoke, you release thousands of chemicals into the lungs, which irritates tissues and makes it harder for lungs to stay clean. The continued habit of smoking eventually causes airways to become narrower, which impedes breathing. Inhaling secondhand smoke is no safer, too.
Your lungs are healthiest when you don’t start smoking at all. However, if you are a smoker, the earlier you quit, the better it is for your lungs in the long run. There are many resources online to help you quit smoking.
4. Do breathing exercises
Aside from physical workouts, practicing your breathing also helps keep the lungs healthy. Doing breathing exercises also allows your lungs to use air more efficiently.
One useful exercise is breathing through your diaphragm. In this exercise, you breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. You have to be aware of how your stomach fills with air when you inhale and exhale twice as long as you have inhaled.
Just using five to 10 minutes of your day can greatly improve how your lungs function.
5. Improve air quality at home
While being outdoors exposes you to many air pollutants that you have little control over, you are able to make sure you inhale clean air when indoors. One simple way to accomplish this is to dust your furniture weekly and to regularly clean up at home to prevent the buildup of dirt.
Open your windows, too, for better ventilation. To make your air smell fresher, use more natural means such as essential oils and diffusers. You should also have your HVAC systems cleaned and replace air filters regularly.
By being mindful of your lung health, you also take care of your overall physical health. It is also good to consult your doctor for other personalized recommendations for your lungs.