Exercise can boost your fitness, strengthen your heart, and even improve your mood, but did you know that exercise can also help keep your lungs healthy?
Albert Rizzo, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer, American Lung Association
When you are physically active, your heart and lungs work together to supply the additional oxygen your muscles demand. Just like regular exercise makes your muscles stronger, it also improves your cardio-respiratory function. As your physical fitness improves, your body becomes more efficient at getting oxygen into the bloodstream and transporting it to the working muscles. That’s one of the reasons that you are less likely to become out of breath during exercise over time.
Here are five ways to enhance your lung health through exercise:
1. Exercise regularly
National guidelines recommend that all adults get 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week. If that is more than you can do right now, any level of activity is better than none, and it doesn’t have to be a formal exercise program to be beneficial. Some examples of moderate activity include walking briskly, recreational bicycling, gardening, and vigorous cleaning.
2. Do aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities
Both aerobic activities that make your heart beat faster and muscle-strengthening activities that make your muscles work harder can benefit your lungs. Aerobic activities like walking, running, or jumping rope give your heart and lungs the kind of workout they need to function efficiently. Muscle-strengthening activities like weightlifting or Pilates build core strength, improving your posture and toning your breathing muscles.
3. Practice breathing exercises
Breathing exercises, like pursed lip breathing and belly breathing, can strengthen your diaphragm and train your body to breathe more deeply and more effectively.
4. Avoid exercising outdoors on poor air quality days
Avoid exercising outdoors when pollution levels are high. When the air quality is bad, walk indoors in a shopping mall or gym, use an exercise machine, or simply turn on the radio and dance to your favorite tunes in your living room.
5. If you are living with lung disease, talk to your doctor
People living with lung disease can and should get regular exercise for all the same reasons as everyone else — your lungs and heart stay stronger, you are better able to perform the tasks of daily living, and you feel better in mind and body. However, if you are already dealing with shortness of breath, it can be intimidating to think about increasing your physical activity. It is important to work with your healthcare team to make a fitness plan that works for you.