Respiratory health should be at or near the top of everyone’s list for staying healthy. Rather than focusing on what to do after you get sick--Let’s take a look at how to keep our lungs healthy--in the 21st century.
Here are a few tips you can use to keep your lungs healthy:
- Stop smoking. Talk with your primary care physician about smoking cessation programs.
- Avoid secondhand smoke. Research shows it can be just as deadly as being a smoker.
- Stay away from harsh chemicals. It’s important to avoid breathing in damaging fumes (e.g., home cleaners and weed killers).
- Prevent infections. Many infections can lead to conditions like pneumonia and bronchitis but a flu shot and frequent handwashing can help.
- Finally, identify several forms of exercise that give your lungs a healthy workout. The more you exercise and work the lungs, the stronger they become.
When you look at this list it seems avoidance is as important as proactively doing something. Our lungs are a huge interface to the outside world. The total internal surface area of the human lung is estimated to be equal to the total area of one side of a tennis court. An average person breathes in 8,000 and 9,000 liters of air per day. So while exercise will help our lungs, protecting them from damage is also a big part of keeping them healthy.
Exercising for Improved Lung Health
How much and what kind of exercises are good for helping older adults maintain healthy lungs? Experts suggest getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week as vital.
There are several types of aerobic workouts older adults should consider:
- Even giving your house a good cleaning can help pump up your lung capacity.
If you are having trouble doing these standing exercises, look at these senior-friendly exercises you can do in or around a chair. Comfort Keepers hosted Functional Fitness and it was a hit on local television stations. If you like the program you can get all 6 of the old shows by clicking here. Old shows or not, they are a great senior-friendly workout program.
Today people employ breathing exercises to help them gain lung capacity, reduce stress, get better sleep, exercise better, or make several other positive gains. For instance, to lower your anxiety you might want to practice a technique called 4-7-8 breathing. According to Medical News Today, Doctor Andrew Weil teaches this technique to his students.
Before starting the breathing pattern, adopt a comfortable sitting position and place the tip of the tongue on the tissue right behind the top front teeth.
To use the 4-7-8 technique, focus on the following breathing pattern:
- empty the lungs of air
- breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds
- hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds
- exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds
- repeat the cycle up to 4 times
Dr. Weil suggests doing this twice a day or more to get optimum results. Many people say they feel the benefit almost immediately. US Army Rangers employ similar breathing techniques to keep their emotions in check before missions and drills.
Breathing exercises according to Silver Sneakers can pay off big for seniors. Learning what type of breather you are, stomach or diaphragm can help teach you how to use the stronger muscles in your body for breathing and increase lung capacity. This can also lead to less anxiety. For the full article in Silver Sneakers click here. Silver Sneakers experts recommend you get breathless at least once per day!
In the past several years there has been an increase in how often the National Weather Service has posted air quality alerts. With an increase in global temperatures and droughts has come more fires and heat inversions in our cities. What should you do during an air quality alert?
- Stay Informed. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or your favorite weather news station
- Stay inside if possible, particularly if you have respiratory concerns or other health problems, are a senior or child
- If you must go out, try to limit the amount of time you are out to strictly essential activities
This is particularly important for people with asthma and breathing conditions like COPD. According to the American Lung Association, air pollution can harm anyone, but it can be really dangerous for a lot of people, including children and teens, people with asthma and other lung diseases, anyone over 65, anyone who exercises or works outdoors or has diabetes or cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure, or has suffered a heart attack or stroke. Even healthy adults who exercise or work outdoors can be harmed. Changing what you do on these bad air days can reduce your risk of being harmed. You can check your local radio and TV weather reports, newspapers, and Airnow.gov for daily air pollution forecasts in your area.
The chart above demonstrates the different levels for the advisory and the chart below shows how airnow.gov shows you how the air is for the current day in your area.
Keeping our lungs healthy should be a top priority. If you do have some issues with your lungs please check out our ebook on COPD and ideas you can utilize to reduce the impact on your life.
American Lung Association
Medical News Today
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
Comfort Keepers Franchising Inc.