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When people think about becoming fit and getting in shape, they rarely think about the health of their lungs. Lungs are sometimes taken for granted while all the attention goes towards toning and strengthening muscles. Without the proper functioning of the lungs, our survival would be at stake. Let us explore some ways in which we can improve the health of our lungs and ensure optimum functioning.
1. Quit Smoking
Smoking cigarettes not only increases the chances of getting lung cancer but also several other deadly diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), asthma and fibroids in the lungs. The inhalation of the smoke, during smoking cigarettes introduces several toxins and chemicals like tar, carbon dioxide, nicotine and carcinogens to our respiratory system, which are extremely detrimental for lung health. Even passive smoking is one of the leading causes of lung cancer. Quitting smoking starts making small progress in restoring lung health from as early as a month.
2. Stay hydrated
Taking adequate amounts of water according to age and health conditions help maintain optimum lung health by impacting the overall respiratory system. A well hydrated body has a moist nasal cavity due to mucus production, which is essential for trapping pollutants during inhalation.
3. Maintain a good posture
Lungs are soft spongy structures situated on either side of the body. This nature lets them occupy only as much space as we make for them. Sitting straight with our shoulders slightly arched back provides a lot of space for the lungs to function properly. This is applicable for standing postures as well. A hunched posture results in less space for the lungs, and therefore less space for storing and processing of the gasses so crucial for life.
4. Diaphragmatic breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing is a conscious way of increasing lung capacity. Also known as belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing engages the diaphragm, muscles in the abdomen and the stomach resulting in intense deep breathing. It opens up the lungs and with regular practice diaphragmatic breathing increases lung capacity. Diaphragmatic breathing has several other benefits too. It helps keep anxiety in check by reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It is known to lower heart rate and also helps in reducing high blood pressure (hypertension).
5. Stay active
A pair of lungs is very flexible and adapts to suit the kind of lifestyle a person is living. With regular exercise the lung capacity increases. However, leading a sedentary lifestyle does not allow us to experience the true potential of our lungs. While diaphragmatic breathing is focussed only on improving lung health, being active in general ensures healthy lungs as well as the other organs of the body. Using stairs instead of the lift, walking or cycling to the nearby market instead of taking the car or using the broom once in a while to clean up our homes instead of the vacuum cleaner- all of these small everyday alternatives contribute to us getting fitter and healthier. It helps us use our lungs effectively and increases lung capacity.
Improving our lung health is not as difficult as it sounds and can be achieved through simple activities. Everyday choices like not smoking or quitting smoking and taking the stairs instead of the lift can contribute immensely to improving lung health and even reversing lung damage. Staying hydrated and maintaining a good posture are some other ways which ultimately improve the functioning of the respiratory system.