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Personify Fitness

Breathe More Easily

You can’t see them or touch them and because of that, they are often neglected. Yet Personify Fitness’s Ben Short says our lungs are the gateway to a healthier, more energised body

While you are reading this article, your lungs are only working at around 50 per cent of their maximum capacity. That’s fine for now but if they are not challenged regularly throughout the day the rest of your body could suffer. If you constantly feel tired or find it difficult to concentrate, it could be that your body is not getting the amount of oxygen it needs to function at its best.

If you don’t use them properly or abuse them by smoking, the lungs become less active and can shrink in size. You can offset that shrinkage with specific breathing exercises, see my tips below.

Most runners and cyclists will understand the term VO2 Max – this is a measure of how efficient your body is at transporting oxygen from the air you breathe to your muscles, and is one of the tests I carry out with clients during a health assessment.

A high V02 Max score is usually associated with good fitness and weight. But you don’t need to be a marathon runner to need a high V02 Max – increasing the amount of oxygen your body receives can lead to reduced risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, dementia, depression, and Type 2 diabetes.

By increasing your lung capacity, you will be able to breathe more easily when you step out into the cold this winter and have more energy if you suddenly need to dash for the bus.

Here’s how to improve your lung capacity:

  • Exercise your diaphragm this is the muscle underneath the lower ribs. Exercise will make it more flexible, allowing the lungs to expand to their full potential. Relax your shoulders or lie down. Put one hand on your stomach. Breathe in through the nose and hold for two seconds and then breathe out through the mouth, making the hand on the stomach move. Practise this just eight times a day.
  • Stretch your ribs stand upright and arch your back, looking at the ceiling. Or try the Cobra pose (see my article in here). This will increase the flexibility of the intercostal muscles, which run between the ribs, and allow the lungs to expand without restriction.
  • Increase the amount of oxygen that is pumped around your body by varying the intensity of any activity you do. So, if you walk to work, change the pace at various intervals from slow to fast, then back again. In the house, do a few step ups on the first step and then run up the stairs rather than walk. If you are swimming, start by treading water, then do breast stroke, then front crawl, then back to treading water.

 

If you do one thing this month… Sing everyday! The people with the best V02 Max scores are opera singers. So, whether you choose a Pavarotti number or a rap, I prescribe singing your lungs out, holding a note for as long as you can and push your lungs outside of their comfort zone.

For others yet to hit that top note, underwater swimming can be a great training way to control breathing, contact Ben and the team to find out more and design a specific plan suited to your improved health and fitness ambitions.

Five Top Tips For Healthier Lungs

Stop smoking and avoid passive smoking or environmental irritants

Eat foods rich in antioxidants and
vitamins A, C and E

Make sure you have your flu and
pneumonia vaccines this winter, if you are eligible, to prevent lung infections

Focus not on the amount you breathe in, but how frequently you expand your lungs

Improve your indoor air quality – hoover regularly and wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth to eliminate dust. And buy yourself a spider plant – according to a NASA study, this is one of the best air-filtering plants to have indoors.

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