Breathing is a natural gift we often take for granted. It’s a necessary function, but it also isn’t guaranteed. By the time we hit our mid-20s, our lung capacity and function decrease, and certain chronic diseases (like COPD and asthma) can be sped up. Those recovering from COVID-19 often suffer significant damage from the disease, and regaining lung function and capacity can be quite the challenge. Experts, however, have determined some breathing exercises can help.
Everything You Need to Know About Diaphragmatic Breathing
Your diaphragm is supposed to perform the majority of the work when we breathe. Diaphragmatic breathing (otherwise known as “belly breathing”) exercises engage the diaphragm and help strengthen it to prevent strain on any other part of your body. When you have COPD or are recovering from COVID-19, these exercises can be especially helpful at rebuilding your lung function.
How to practice:
- Relax your body (focus specifically on your shoulders), then sit or lie down, whatever makes you comfortable.
- Place one of your hands on your stomach and one on your chest.
- Slowly inhale through your nose for 2 seconds. Notice your breath moving from your chest and filling your belly.
- Breathe out for 2 seconds through pursed-lips while pressing on your abdominal area.
- Repeat these steps for 1 minute.
If you are recovering from COVID-19, visit this site to learn more about the different phases of diaphragmatic breathing. You should also consult an experienced physician about developing a personalized exercise plan.
What You Need to Know About Pursed-Lips Breathing
Pursed lip breathing is often used to relax your mind, body, and soul. This exercise works by relaxing the muscles and keeping your airway open for a longer period of time. This takes the strain off of your lungs and helps the oxygen and carbon dioxide transfer.
How to practice:
- Inhale through your nose slowly for a count of 4.
- Purse your lips together.
- Gently breathe out slowly through your pursed lips. Your exhale should take twice as long as your inhale (about 8 seconds).
- Repeat this for 1 minute.
Precautions to Take and Other Tips for Healthy Lungs
With regular exercise, you don’t force yourself to participate when you’re hurt or when your body tells you to stop. The same goes for breathing exercises. As Lung HelpLine respiratory therapist Mark Courtney told the American Lung Association, “You want to try [the exercises] when you’re breathing OK, and then later on when you’re more comfortable.” Practicing these exercises for about 5 to 10 minutes per day is ideal.
If you have decreased lung function or are recovering from COVID-19, here is a list of precautions you should take when performing these exercises.
Do not do these exercises if:
- You have a fever (a temperature of 98.6°F or higher)
- You’re experiencing shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- You have issues with heart palpitations or experience chest pain
- You notice any swelling in your legs or feet
Stop these exercises immediately if you experience:
- Dizziness or fainting
- Trouble breathing
- Severe chest pain or an irregular heartbeat
- Clammy or cold skin
- Any symptoms that may be considered an emergency
If these symptoms persist after resting/ceasing the exercises or if you experience any cognitive declines or difficulties, call 911 immediately.
Interested in more ways to work on your lung health? Check out the easy tips from lung experts below.
Tips for lung health:
- Stop smoking and avoid places where you could be exposed to secondhand smoke or other irritants.
- Be sure to keep your air filters clean and reduce air pollutants (e.g., dust, mold, and dander) to improve your indoor air quality.
- Develop a healthy and balanced diet; incorporate foods rich in antioxidants.
- Exercise often. Start at your comfort level and grow your workout routine as you build up your strength.
- Stay up to date on your vaccinations. You should get vaccinated for the flu and pneumonia every year to promote excellent lung health and avoid lung infections.
Have More Questions Regarding Your Lung Health?
At Gwinnett Pulmonary & Sleep, we care about your health and are here to provide you with what you need for optimal health. Our certified and experienced physicians can answer any questions you may have regarding your lung health. We provide several services, including Pulmonary Function Testing, and work with you to devise a personalized care plan. Interested in learning more? Visit our site for more information regarding our practice or contact us and schedule an appointment.