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How to Increase Lung Capacity: Breathing Exercises

Our lung capacity

It's the total amount of air that your lungs can hold.
Over time, our lung capacity and lung function typically decrease slowly as we age after our mid-20s. Also, some medical conditions contribute to the reduction of our lung functioning. These lead to difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath.

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How to Increase Lung Capacity: Breathing Exercises

How to Increase Lung Capacity: Breathing Exercises

https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-increase-lung-capacity

healthline.com

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Key Ideas

Our lung capacity

It's the total amount of air that your lungs can hold.
Over time, our lung capacity and lung function typically decrease slowly as we age after our mid-20s. Also, some medical conditions contribute to the reduction of our lung functioning. These lead to difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath.

Diaphragmatic breathing

This is also known as belly breathing:

  • Relax your shoulders and sit back or lie down.
  • Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest.
  • Inhale through your nose for 2 seconds, feeling the air move into your abdomen and feeling your stomach move out. Your stomach should move more than your chest does.
  • Breathe out for 2 seconds through pursed lips while pressing on your abdomen.
  • Repeat.

Pursed-lips breathing

It slows down your breathing, making it easier for the lungs to function and improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide:

  • Inhale slowly through your nostrils.
  • Purse your lips, as if pouting or about to blow on something.
  • Breathe out as slowly as possible through pursed lips. This should take at least twice as long as it did to breathe in.
  • Repeat.

Keeping your lungs healthy

Prevention is the best medicine:

  • Stop smoking, and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Eat foods rich in antioxidants.
  • Get vaccinations like the flu vaccine and the pneumonia vaccine. 
  • Exercise frequently.
  • Improve indoor air quality. Use tools like indoor air filters and reduce pollutants like artificial fragrances, mold, and dust.

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Pursed lip breathing
  1. While keeping your mouth closed, take a deep breath in through your nose, counting to 2. The breath does not have to be deep. 
  2. Put your lips together as if you are starting to whistle or blow out candles on a birthday cake. This is known as “pursing” your lips.
  3. While continuing to keep your lips pursed, slowly breathe out by counting to 4. Don’t try to force the air out, but instead breathe out slowly through your mouth.
Pursed lip breathing benefits:
  • It’s been shown to reduce how hard a person has to work to breathe.
  • It helps release air trapped in the lungs.
  • It promotes relaxation.
  • It reduces shortness of breath.

Practice it 4 to 5 times per day, daily.

Pursed lip breathing is best for performing strenuous activities, such as climbing stairs.

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Practicing deep “belly breathing” can reduce the stress on the supporting ligaments of the diaphragm and can help relieve side stitches. 

Belly breath: Lie down on the floor and place a hand on your belly. Breathe deeply. If you feel your hand rise and fall slightly with your breathing, you’re belly breathing. If your chest is moving instead of your stomach, you’re not breathing deeply enough, and need to adjust.  

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Belief in the benefits of controlled breathing goes back centuries.

Central to ancient Hindu philosophy was prana, described as vital “airs” or “energies” flowing through the body. Stemming from that belief, yoga was built on pranayama or breath retention. 

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Abdominal Breathing Technique
How it’s done: With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. The goal: 6 to 10 deep, slow breaths per minute for 10 minutes each day to experience immediate reductions to heart rate and blood pressure.

When it works best: Before an exam, or any stressful event.

Nadi Shodhana or “Alternate Nostril Breathing”

How it’s done: Starting in a comfortable meditative pose, hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb and exhaling through the left nostril.

When it works best: Crunch time, or whenever it’s time to focus or energize.

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Learn to cope with stress

The key to finding the balance between work and health is learning how to cope with stress.

Get in the habit of stepping away from the stressful situation for a few moments to calm down and collect your thoughts: step away from the computer or spend a few minutes walking outside.

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  • Do you find it hard to focus on other things?

Paying too much attention is called hypervigilance and body scanning. It is associated with anxiety.

Anxiety causes shortness of breath

The brain is very powerful. We can see a positive pregnancy test and immediately develop morning sickness. Anxious people can read about the shortness of breath and instantly develop it.

However, shortness of breath is also tied to the way anxious people breathe. Anxious people breathe fast and too shallow. They blow off too much CO2, which makes them feel dizzy and makes their chest feel tight.

To alleviate the symptoms, breathe in slowly through your nose, count to four seconds, and then breathe out slowly through pursed lips. It will normalize your CO2 levels.

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