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How to Improve Your Lung Capacity

Improve Lung Capacity Sleep Apnoea

How to Improve Your Lung Capacity

There are many ways in which we can remain healthy while living under what can only be called decidedly restrictive conditions. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to hamper life as we know it, it can be difficult to obtain the exercise that we require. 

Furthermore, some individuals may already be suffering from reduced lung capacity — which can compromise your recovery if you become infected with the coronavirus. 

A handful of common causes for reduced lung capacity include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic smoking and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). 

Those who have been diagnosed with sleep apnoea are at a particular risk, as failing to obtain the proper amount of rest can lower their immune system and enable them to become more prone to the serious side effects of coronavirus. 

This is why being able to proactively increase the amount of oxygen our lungs can absorb is crucial. Let’s take a quick look at a few basic facts associated with lung capacity before moving on to discuss three exercises which can be performed in the comfort of your own home. The suggestions outlined below are likely to be quite useful in the coming days and weeks.

Why is the Capacity of Our Lungs Important?

The most obvious answer to this question involves the amount of oxygen provided to our cells. Cells require oxygen to function properly and to obtain a metabolic balance known as homeostasis. This element also helps our bodies to reduce toxins that have accumulated over time and it heightens our state of mental alertness. 

However, you might not be aware that oxygen is directly related to the strength of our immune system. This is why those who are concerned about the potential impact of COVID-19 need to take the capacity of their lungs very seriously. 

It is not possible to change the size of our lungs (and therefore, the amount of air that they are able to hold at any given time). 

However, the good news is that we can improve their existing efficiency by performing three powerful exercises on a daily basis. These can help to reduce symptoms such as shortness of breath while simultaneously enhancing their overall functionality. Now that we have covered some pertinent points, let us examine these techniques. 

Breathing with Pursed Lips

This first exercise is extremely beneficial for anyone who is currently dealing with the effects of obstructive sleep apnoea due to the fact that it will help the airways to remain open. Begin by sitting upright in a comfortable position.

Then, “purse” your lips together so that only a small amount of air can enter and exit (much like if you were preparing to kiss someone). Slowly inhale through the nose in a controlled manner for approximately five seconds. 

Afterwards, begin to exhale through your mouth for ten seconds (or as long as possible). It could be a good idea to use a stopwatch or timer in the beginning so that you can learn to appreciate the rhythm involved. 

This is a great technique if your physical activities are limited or if you are not currently capable of performing more strenuous exercises. 

Breathing Through the Belly

Belly breathing can actually trace its roots back to ancient eastern cultures, as monks and martial artists developed this exercise in order to obtain greater levels of awareness and to strengthen their internal “chi” (energy flow). 

The American Lung Association has likewise found that controlled belly breathing can help to improve the rates at which your lungs contract and expand. The main focus is placed upon your diaphragm and here are the relevant steps:

  • Lightly place your hand upon your stomach.
  • Breathing slowly through the nose, make it a point to note how much your stomach muscles move.
  • Exhale through your mouth.
  • During the following breath, try to allow your stomach to move out slightly further than previously.
  • Ideally, you should exhale between two and three times longer than when you inhale.

Also, gently roll your shoulders forward and backward while rotating your neck. This can help to ensure that you are not placing any undue muscular strain upon your upper body. Try to perform belly breathing for between five and ten minutes on a daily basis. 

Interval Breathing Sessions 

Those who are suffering from conditions such as COPD or sleep apnoea will often find it difficult to engage in periods of prolonged exercise due to their inability to obtain the appropriate amount of oxygen. 

This is when a technique known as interval training can prove quite useful. Interval training essentially involves short bouts of intense physical exercise followed by relatively longer periods of mild activity. Here are two examples to illustrate the basic principles:

  • Two minutes of light jogging followed by two minutes of walking.
  • 30 seconds of sprinting and two minutes of slow jogging.

Most experts recommend that you should pace yourself when performing any exercise that causes breathing difficulties. It is better to give your lungs a chance to rest using this technique before placing them under pressure once again. 

Tips to Maintain Healthy Lungs

While there is no doubt that the three techniques mentioned above will come in handy, it is important to remember that healthy lungs are also a result of developing the right habits. Keep these tried-and-true recommendations in mind at all times.

  • Avoid smoking.
  • Drink an adequate amount of fluids.
  • Try to remain as physically active as possible.

It is also important to remember that you should always contact a doctor before starting any type of exercise programme or if you begin to experience severe shortness of breath.

Whether you have been diagnosed with sleep apnoea or you are simply concerned about the long-term impacts of COVID-19, take a proactive approach. 

For more information, take a closer look at these exercises.

To order the Intust In-Home Sleep Test: https://www.sleeptest.co.uk/product/in-home-sleep-test/


About author: Helen Clarkson is a Sleep Specialist at Baywater Healthcare. Ms. Clarkson has worked with Baywater since 2008, working closely with patients in delivering sleep/bi-level services including sleep and respiratory, both in the home and clinic setting. This includes therapy initiation and troubleshooting support. Ms. Clarkson is responsible for delivering the Baywater Healthcare patient adherence management programme to ensure continuing patient therapy compliance. works in conjunction with NHS clinicians and procurement to deliver excellence in home and clinic-based services. She provides training on all aspects of sleep including devices and interfaces. Previously, Ms. Clarkson served as Respiratory Physiologist at Pontefract General Infirmary. Her position was Senior MTO for lung function/sleep department, and she was responsible for performing simple and complex sleep studies, sleep study analysis, CPAP initiation, therapy adherence and troubleshooting/service clinics, spirometry, lung volumes and transfer factor, reversibility, CPET, hyperventilation testing, EIA testing, skin prick testing, 6 min walk tests. She has also held roles as Respiratory Physiologist and Respiratory Technician, working closely with patients with respiratory disorders -- including ex-miners. Ms. Clarkson has a BSc (Honors) in Applied biology from University of Staffordshire. She also studied Developments in Sleep Medicine (advanced course) at St. Thomas’ Hospital, and took the Edinburgh Sleep Medicine course. She completed the BSS: Advanced sleep course and the ARTP NIV Course.

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