Many would argue that nothing is more important than the ability to breathe. Being able to breathe however comes with varying degrees in the quality of each breath. According to the University of Missouri, poor breathing influences mental alertness, robs energy, and can result in a loss of up to 20 percent of blood oxygen levels. Employing simple exercise can improve lung function and efficiency.
Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, is the simplest of the breathing exercises. This exercise teaches you to use the sheet-like muscle at the base of your chest, called your diaphragm, for breathing. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your back straight, and hand on your stomach. Take a deep breath through your nose by allowing your stomach to bulge instead of your chest expanding. Use your hand to feel that your stomach is expanding instead of your chest. Exhale through your mouth. Repeat this exercise a number of times throughout the day.
Pursed-Lip Breathing Exercise
Another effective basic breathing exercise is to partially close your lips, called pursed-lip breathing. According to Merck, exhaling against pursed-lips creates a natural resistance and pressure in the airways preventing collapse. For example, use the pursed-lip technique to blow out a candle at increasing distances. Stand at arm’s length from a lit candle and blow it out. If you are successful, relight the candle and take one or two paces farther away and try again. Continue until you can no longer blow the candle out.
Lung Capacity and Aerobic Exercise
Much of your lung capacity and efficiency can be improved with exercise. According to Cleveland Clinic, aerobic activity improves your breathing, and improves the body’s ability to use oxygen. Typically, during normal breathing you only use a small percentage of your lung capacity. Exercise increases the number of small air sacs being used to exchange oxygen with carbon dioxide and employs additional muscles for respiration. Your lung and heart capacity increases, and the efficiency improves over time to deliver oxygen to working muscles. Blowing up balloons and singing are also exercises that can help increase your lung capacity.
Device Assisted Exercises
Other types of exercises involve the use of devices to increase resistance and cause the muscles to work harder. According to Expand A Lung.com, exercises that include breathing resistance develop stronger lungs for improved endurance for sports or common respiratory illness. Such devices either restrict the airflow in and out of the lungs during breathing, or increase resistance around your stomach or chest. These devices can cause a lack of adequate oxygen under certain circumstances, and should only be used under the direct supervision of a physician or other health care professional.