Do you gasp for air after climbing just a few flights of stairs? How about when carrying packages? If you don’t have any specific conditions that affect the lungs – like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – then lack of exercise could be contributing to your shortness of breath.
Breathing should be a natural activity, but your lung capacity does decrease over time as you age. You can fight back with exercises to help increase your lung capacity. The goal is to exercise your way to better breathing to get your body the oxygen it needs. Let’s explore several types of exercises that can improve your lung function, open your airways, and get you breathing fully again.
Exercise improves lung function, whether you are healthy or not. Any type of physical activity counts as exercise, but some examples of a good cardio workout are walking, dancing, hiking, swimming, and cycling.
Cardio makes your heart and lungs stronger. When you exercise, your body uses more oxygen and produces more carbon dioxide. To cope with this demand, your breathing increases, your lungs take in more air, and in effect, your lung capacity increases.
Your body will eventually transport oxygen more efficiently, improving your circulation and preventing shortness of breath.
Breathing exercises are recommended by physical therapists to help you focus on and control your breathing. You can do them as you go about your daily tasks.
Diaphragmatic breathing is breathing through your belly. This type of breathing engages and strengthens the diaphragm, and is helpful to those with COPD who have weak diaphragms.
The belly breathing technique is best used when you feel relaxed, like when soaking in the tub or lying down in bed.
Here’s how to perform diaphragmatic breathing, according to the COPD Foundation:
- Relax your shoulders.
- Place one hand on your stomach, then place the other hand on your chest.
- Inhale through your nose for two seconds.
- Feel the air move into your belly.
- With one hand still on your belly, breathe out for two seconds through pursed lips.
This exercise slows down the pace of your breathing. It reduces the work of your lungs by slowing down the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body. By keeping the airways open longer, you’re making it easier for your lungs to function.
Pursed-lip breathing is done by inhaling through the nose, while keeping the mouth closed and slowly releasing air through pursed lips.
How to practice pursed-lip breathing:
- Breathe in through your nose for two seconds.
- Next, keep your lips pursed as if you’re about to whistle.
- Then, exhale slowly counting to four.
If You’re Having Trouble Breathing Through Your Nose
Of course, these exercises are not effective if you have trouble breathing through your nose. If you do, you could have structural abnormalities or swelling in your nose. Limited nasal airflow is a symptom of a deviated septum or nasal polyps. Congestion from a sinus infection could also limit your breathing ability.
You do not have to live with sinus or nasal problems. Obstructed breathing puts your overall health at risk. Have an ENT doctor evaluate your condition.
ENT Expertise in Austin
Visit the Nasal & Sinus Center of Austin – and one of our otolaryngologists will evaluate your condition and craft a treatment plan to help you breathe better.
You can call us in Austin at (512) 339-4040 or in Lakeway at (512) 682-4798, or request an appointment online.