Respiratory health is a vital component of our overall health. The human respiratory system is a series of organs responsible for taking in oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide – basically breathing!!
The average adult breathes about 17,000 to 30,000 times a day, therefore it obvious why good respiratory health is essential in our overall health. Lung conditions are common and variable and can affect people of all ages.
It is widely known, and thoroughly researched, that exercise is highly beneficial for people living with chronic lung disease. Although lung conditions vary and present differently with each individual the role of exercise is global and positive in all cases.
Exercise can help to:
- Improve your breathing
- Clear mucus (or sputum) from your chest
- Reduce your breathlessness during daily activities
- Improve your oxygen saturations levels (Sao2)
- Reduce shortness of breath — at rest and during exertion
- Improve overall health
The frequency, type, intensity, duration and scheduling of exercise are important factors to take into account with prescription and should be implemented by an Accredited Exercise Physiologist. However, some key focus points to consider include:
- A combination of aerobic and resistance- based exercise provide the best outcomes.
- Diaphragmatic breathing and breathing control are imperative.
- Periodisation and progression of planning are mandatory.
- Work within your limits (mental, physiological and physical).
In addition to exercise, you can improve your respiratory health and lung capacity by:
- Stop smoking, and avoid secondhand smoke or environmental irritants.
- Eat foods rich in antioxidants.
- Get vaccinations like the flu vaccine.
- Improve indoor air quality. Use tools like indoor air filters and reduce pollutants like artificial fragrances, mold, and dust.
- Do daily breathing exercises.
Breathing exercises can be as simple as diaphragmatic breathing, or “belly breathing”. The diaphragm is supposed to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to breathing, so deepening your breath is particulate helpful to strengthen this muscle. Belly breathing is best used when feeling rested and can also have the added benefit of calming the nervous system.
If you have respiratory issues, you could begin practice diaphragmatic breathing:
- Relax your shoulders and sit back or lie down.
- Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest.
- Inhale through your nose for two seconds, feeling the air move into your abdomen and feeling your stomach move out. Your stomach should move more than your chest does.
- Breathe out for two seconds through pursed lips while pressing on your abdomen.
If this feels easy you can gradually increase the duration of the inhalation and exhalation.
If you wish to gain more information on the role of exercise in relation to prevention, management and assistance of chronic respiratory conditions, the exercise physiologist at Sunshine Coast can assist.