It’s easy to take for granted what our lungs do to keep us alive every day. But, did you know our lungs actually require exercise in order to function properly?
Everything we do inside and out is dependent on our lungs delivering oxygen to every part of our bodies.
The healthier our lungs, the more oxygen we will be able to inhale. So, by practicing a few breathing exercises each day, we will be able to increase our stamina, increase oxygen intake and ensure our entire body is getting sufficient oxygen.
Below are a few simple breathing exercises to get you started. These can be done anywhere and don’t require any additional equipment.
Plus, they only take a few minutes to complete. Try doing them every morning before starting your day, or in the evening to relax you after a long day.
The 2:4 Breathing Exercise
Numbered breathing exercises are one of the most popular and well-known breathing exercises out there. They’re super easy to master and only take a minute or two to complete.
How to do it:
- Step 1: begin with your feet shoulder-width apart, looking straight ahead with your back straight
- Step 2: now, slowly breathe in through your nose for two seconds
- Step 3: next, breathe out for four seconds through pursed lips
- Step 4: repeat at least three times, breathing normally between sets
The ‘Push-Out’ Breathing Exercise
The Push-Out breathing exercise is a great way to increase your lung capacity and their ability to absorb oxygen. Plus, it works out as a nice stretch for your back too!
How to do it:
- Step 1: begin in the upright position, feet shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in your knees
- Step 2: then, bend at the hips down toward your toes, pushing all the air out of your lungs as you do so
- Step 3: slowly bring yourself back up to the starting position, inhaling deeply hold your breath as long as possible
- Step 4: repeat up to four times a day
Does running strengthen your lungs?
On top of breathing exercises, there are a number of exercises that strengthen your lungs, such as running.
Running strengthens your lungs if done regularly. This is because regularly running (or any other cardiovascular exercises) improves your body’s muscular strength which, in turn, requires less oxygen to operate. As a result, your lungs don’t have to work as hard, causing them less stress and making them stronger.
How do runners strengthen their lungs?
Runners who run regularly increase the endurance capacity of their respiratory muscles. This allows them to take deeper, fuller breaths when running and strengthening their lungs as a result.
Dedicated runners will follow strict training routines in order to build their endurance and stamina as well as maintain it. The more they run, the more alveoli and capillaries they grow. This enables them to transport more oxygen to their muscles much faster.
Can running damage your lungs?
Running is known to help improve the health of our lungs. However, there are a few instances when running can cause damage or temporary pain to our lungs or what feels like our lungs.
Lots of people who are new to running or have recently upped how far, or often they run may feel some pain in their lungs after running.
While this is to be expected if they have an underlying lung condition such as asthma but, if not, it’s probably their muscles they used to breathe that are hurting, rather than their lungs. This is a common misconception.
In the same way the muscles in our arms or legs need training, the muscles we use to breathe need training too. After a long run, our legs will often hurt, but we don’t think twice about this pain.
So, don’t stress if you feel pain near your lungs after running, your breathing muscles are just getting used to the new exercise routine.
Another common misconception is that running in the cold can damage our lungs. This is actually not technically true. Cold air can’t get into your lungs and cause them to freeze because our bodies are specially designed to adapt to these conditions and by the time the air reaches our lungs it is body temperature.
However, that burning feeling in your chest you get is real and while it’s not dangerous it is uncomfortable so here’s a few tips for running in the cold:
- Wrap up warm - wear a scarf or breathable balaclava over your mouth to keep warm
- Take deeper breaths - that burning feeling is often caused by you taking sharp breaths of air to catch your breath, taking slower, longer breaths will help this
Does running clean your lungs?
Keeping your lungs as clear as possible is super important and will benefit your entire body inside and out, not to mention how you feel.
A great way to clean your lungs is by running regularly. Running is a great all-rounder exercise that helps our lungs in various ways.
Not only does it help clean our lungs, it helps strengthen the lung muscles and builds our stamina, causing us to put less strain on our lungs when carrying out day-to-day activities.
One thing to note though, is where you run. The best way to work on cleaning your lungs is by running in nature, away from the air pollution in big cities. There are lots of studies looking into the impact of air pollution on our lungs.
Exposure to dust, allergens, car exhausts and smoke etc. causes our immune system to attack the bad particles creating scar tissue that can prevent the lungs from functioning properly over time.
So, as long as you run in clean air and don’t push yourself beyond your capabilities, running can for sure help to clean your lungs, especially if you used to smoke. Running can be a great way to build up your lung strength to combat the damage done by smoking.