Individuals with lung disease can benefit from lung-strengthening exercises. Healthy young adults can also benefit from exercises that increase lung capacity and keep the muscles that help us breathe (accessory muscles) strong and efficient. Exercises that improve lung function improve quality of life for anyone suffering from COPD, emphysema, asthma or other respiratory conditions. Lung-strengthening exercises can improve oxygenation to all organs of the body, including the skin. Strong lungs help keep airways clear and free of mucous.
Aerobic and Resistance Execises Strengthen Lungs
Any form of regular exercise strengthens the lungs. Walking, running, swimming, stretching, resistance training, water aerobics or jumping rope are all beneficial for lung function. Aerobic exercises especially strengthen the ability of the lungs to use oxygen efficiency. Aerobic exercises engage large muscle groups and elevate heart rate. Over time, heart rate slows and blood pressure becomes lower, allowing easier breathing. Aerobic exercise requires that you elevate your heart rate for at least 20 minutes. Warm-up and cool-down exercises precede and follow aerobic exercise respectively, leading to stronger lungs. Exercise leads to weight loss. Losing weight also makes the lungs stronger.
Learn to Breathe Efficiently
During exercise, breathe in through your nose, and breathe out with pursed lips. The body eliminates carbon dioxide with slow exhalation. Carbon dioxide can easily build up in patients with COPD or emphysema. Pursed lip breathing is encouraged for lung strengthening, especially for those with lung disease. During exercise, if you become short of breath, make an effort increase breathing efficiency by concentrating on long, slow exhales with your lips pursed (as if you are gently blowing out). Your body will get more oxygen as a result.
Lung-strengthening exercises also include using your abdomen to breathe. Focus on engaging your stomach with inhalation and exhalation. Be aware of how the stomach expands when you take a breath in--exhale fully, pulling the abdomen back toward the spine. Deep breathing strengthens the lungs.
Yoga Strengthens the Lungs
Practicing yoga is a powerful way to strengthen the lungs, because it teaches awareness. Breathing is an integral part of yoga practice. Yoga strengthens the core muscles, which in turn helps strengthen the ability to inhale and exhale. Learning to use the abdominal muscles to breathe efficiently is an important lung-strengthening exercise.